Anticipation and preparedness are the watchwords for Advent. Anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Lord some 2000 years ago and the festivities, gifts, parties and family get-togethers which accompany that celebration. Preparedness because we are reminded that Jesus will come at the end of the world (the parousia) and all will be judged – not just on whether they believed or not, but how they have lived out their belief. Are the end times near? No one knows but the Father. We must always be ready because our personal parousia can come at any time.
Gospel – Luke 1:39-45
On the Sunday before Christmas we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus by noting the coming birth of His forerunner, John the Baptist. In this pre-birth story, Mary visits Elizabeth (the visitation).
1st Reading – Micah 5:1-4a
Micah is the last of the four prophets of the 8th century B.C. (the other three are Isaiah, Hosea and Jonah). The name means “who is like God” and the English equivalent is “Michael”. His preaching is concerned with sin and punishment, not with political or cultic matters. He is preoccupied with social justice and does not fear princes, prophets, or priests. Micah is concerned with the people’s rejection of God. Sin is the reason for the coming punishment. In today’s reading we hear words of hope that focus on one who is to be born in Bethlehem and who will bring in the day of peace when all nations will look to Jerusalem.
2nd Reading – Hebrews 10:5-10
The sacrifices by the priest in the temple did not restore the people and bring them into oneness with God. Rather, it is the perfect offering of Christ that restores us. Jesus came to do the will of God perfectly. In that perfect obedience and in His suffering and death, He overcame the power of evil that separates us from God. Though we still fall into evil, we now have a bridge back to God. Verses 5 through 7 are drawn from Psalm 40:6-8 (Psalm 40:7-9 in the New American Bible). David prefigures Christ’s sacrifice. The Psalm is now seen from the perspective of Christ.