A surprise gift
4th Sunday in Advent 18/12/2022 Mt 1, 18-24
All over the world, families and friends give presents to each other on Christmas. Most children believe in a Christmas gift bringer. It's often St. Nicholas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas. These presents are also left in different places: in shoes or boots or often left hanging by a fire place. In many countries, presents for friends and family may be left under the Christmas Tree. It is a big surprise when we open it. We expect something but something else may happen.
Christmas itself is really about a big present that God gave the world about 2000 years ago - Jesus! One of the most famous Bible verses, John 3:16, says: 'God loved the world so much, that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him may not be lost but have eternal life.'.
In today’s Gospel, we have heard the story how the birth of Jesus. We know the story well. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Surprised !!! a good gift, isn’t it?
Joseph didn’t understand how this happened. And he was planning on doing what he thought was the honourable thing. He decided to divorce her quietly so that she would not endure public shame.
Saint Joseph is described in Matthew’s Gospel as “a righteous man” who was unwilling to expose his betrothed wife, Mary, to shame. Joseph listened in the dream and believed that it was true. And Joseph accepted that responsibility, he accepted that gift.
It’s risky when we say yes. When we accept a gift. We don’t know what is inside of the box. Joseph doesn’t know what happen next. Where his life is led to. Once we accept it. It now belongs to us. It is now under our responsibility. It could/will change our life. But it is riskier not to have it. I remember to see on youtuber, the parents prank children by giving them broccoli, banana or just an empty box. Some of them were disappointed, but others, received the same thing were really happy. The boy with an empty box said he could use it to stock his toys. So it is happy or unfortunate gift. It depends on how we receive it.
When Joseph awoke. He did as the angel of the Lord recommended him. He discovered that God shone a great light into the darkness of a confusing and disturbing situation. The situation that Joseph found himself in was messy from a human point of view and, yet, God was present there bringing light into the darkness. God was at the heart of what seemed to Joseph a very unsatisfactory situation. God is always at the heart of our darkness.
As in the first reading said that the Saviour of the Lord’s name is Emmanuel which means “ God is with us”. The presence of God with us is the best gift.
The best gift we can give to each other is also our time and our presence. This time of the year is time that moves us to be present to each other. Even when we cannot be physically present to people we will make an effort to connect with them in other ways, whether by telephone, or by email, or text or Skype or whatever. We give and receive a lot of presents, a lot of gifts, at Christmas time, but Christmas is much more about being present than giving presents. It is our presence to others and theirs to us that is really at the heart of the Christmas feast.
Accept the gift of God is risky but his presence is source of our happiness. May we can imitate St Joseph and say “Lord Emmanuel, come”