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O Emmanuel

December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013, Fourth Week in Advent:

Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24. I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes.
Luke 1:57-66. The birth of John the Baptist.

Gospel Reflection:

Praise be to Jesus Christ! For evermore!

Yes, he is coming. But who will endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when he appears? For he is like the refiner’s fire” (Mal 3:12). The prophet Malachi declares the great and terrible day of the Lord, as we find ourselves at the town limits of Bethlehem, the eve of the coming of the King of all nations: “Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me,” (Mal 3:1) striking doom upon the wicked. Come, and save us, O Lord our God.

Advent is a time for us to prepare, not only to remember the coming of our Redemption at His birth, but, ultimately to remind us that we need to prepare ourselves for His return. And Malachi the messenger doesn’t mince words about this: “You… will tread down the wicked; they will become ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day I take action” (Mal 3:21). Yikes!

All through Advent we have had the words of John son of Zechariah echoing the prophet, “a voice of one crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mt 3:3; Is 40:3). Now here we are: the day before His coming. Are we ready? Are you ready?

So for today, on this day before, the Gospel focuses on recalling John the Baptist Nativity – which was way back in June – and also that we should remember the Visitation of the Blessed Mother to Elizabeth 3 months before. As the angel Gabriel told Zechariah, “He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). A womb as barren (Lk 1:7) as any desert, and, indeed, as a tiny baby in that womb he became “a voice of one crying out in the desert” as he leaped with joy at Mary’s visitation and arrival.

Do not be afraid.

Finally, we contemplate ourselves in Zechariah – and God’s purposeful creation. Zechariah demonstrates the Creator’s wisdom in giving us two ears to hear and only one mouth to disagree with: making it easier to hold our tongue and listen more intently to God’s Will for us in the world. For after contemplating this incredible and ineffable mystery of God, with the prophets and the Scriptures and all the lives being all entwined together, that announcing the birth of John, the Precursor, set to telling this final prophesy by freeing Zechariah’s voice, and allowing him to confirm the name John – meaning and reminding us that ‘YAHWEH is gracious.’ And indeed he is. Do not be afraid.

Reading this final antiphon gives the feeling that a climax has indeed come. The very term Emmanuel, God with us, reveals the kindly, human heart of Jesus — He wants to be one of us, a Child of man, with all our human weakness and suffering; He wants to experience how hard it is to be man. He wants to remain with us to the end of time, He wants to dwell within us, He wants to make us share His nature.

Merry Christmas,

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