daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 23, 2018
Micah 5:1-4, Psalm 79, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-45

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted


"But you, Bethlehem Ephphatha, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting ... And He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace" (Micah 5:2, 4-5a NKJV).

We are almost at Christmas. This is the Fourth and last Sunday of Advent. Christmas is only two days away. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The antiphons of the divine office give us the spirit of this last Sunday of preparation for Christmas.

"He comes, the desire of all human hearts; his dwelling place shall be resplendent with glory, alleluia" (first vespers, first antiphon).

We are awaiting the glorious celebration of Christmas. Why do we look forward to it and prepare for it with such joy and anticipation - buying presents, sending out Christmas cards, preparing rich meals, decorating our houses and rooms, and listening to and watching Christmas concerts and choirs? We do this to welcome Christ into our world and into our hearts anew in a deeper, more profound, and more personally transforming way, for he has meant so much to us. We celebrate his coming into our world as a babe born in a stable in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, adored by poor shepherds watching over their flocks by night, and sung to by angels in heaven, saying:

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14 KJV).

As we celebrate in word and song Christ's coming into the world, he also comes anew into our hearts, forgiving our sins, no matter how small or how big, justifying and sanctifying us. It is a double celebration really, the celebration of a momentous historical event - the coming of God into the world to save us - and the celebration of his present coming into us personally to save us. He saves me from my sins, whether great or small, and reconciles me with God, the source of all true peace and joy of soul and heart.

"He comes, the desire of all human hearts; his dwelling place shall be resplendent with glory, alleluia" (first vespers, first antiphon).

What more could we desire than him? May his dwelling place - our church, our home, and our heart - be resplendent, when he comes, with his glory, the glory that only he can bring.

So "come, Lord, do not delay; free your people from their sinfulness" (first vespers, second antiphon).

It is only our sinfulness that holds us back from enjoying Christmas peace, Christmas joy, which is heavenly peace come down to earth and into our hearts. So free us now, O Lord, from our sinfulness, from our guilty conscience that blocks your peace from entering into our heart and fills us with guilt and a sense of our failure to fully live as you wish us to live. We therefore pray that God may do to us what St. Paul prays for at first vespers today:

"May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who calls you is faithful, and he will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, the reading at first vespers).

This is why Christ came. This is what Christmas joy is all about. This is the reason for our great joy at this time of year. The one who cleanses us from our sins has come in Bethlehem and is coming into our hearts as we welcome him with faith and love, as we sincerely confess our sins, as we prepare our hearts in silent prayer and contemplation. So we should not only prepare our cities and houses and rooms, but more especially our hearts. This is, of course, something that we should be doing every day of the year, but we can do it with special effect at Christmas, when the whole world helps and inspires us, for everywhere we go and look, we see signs of great joy at the coming of Christ.

So "sound the trumpet in Zion, the day of the Lord is near; he comes to save us, alleluia" (lauds, first antiphon).

Our Savior comes. He gave his life for us. He redeemed us on the cross, as the letter to the Hebrews says in today's second reading:

"We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10).

Christ paid our debt to set us free from sin and Satan and to enable us to be accepted by God. He paid our debt to the Father in his own blood. Our debt is the suffering that we owe God in just punishment for our sins. He suffered this suffering for us on the cross so that when we put our faith in him, we are set free from our sins and reconciled with God.

This is the inner key to understanding the reason for our great joy at Christmas. It is because Christ has redeemed us. Christ makes the crookedness of our sinful life straight, as we say at second vespers today:

"Crooked paths will be straightened, and rough ways made smooth. Come, O Lord, do not delay, alleluia" (second vespers, second antiphon).

Straighten out those final kinks still remaining in us, O Lord, that are blocking your peace from entering into our hearts.

Our first reading today is the important prophecy of the prophet Micah that the chief priests and scribes quote to King Herod after the Magi asked him:

"Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2).

The chief priests and scribes tell King Herod that the Christ is to be born in Bethlehem, as Micah the prophet said:

"And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel" (Matthew 2:6).

Then the prophet Micah describes this Savior:

"He shall stand and feed His flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God; and they shall abide, for now He shall be great to the ends of the earth; and this One shall be peace" (Micah 5:4-5a NKJV).

This is what Christ is doing to us today. We are the flock he is feeding. He is feeding us "in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God" (Micah 5:4 NKJV). In him we are secure. "And they shall abide" (Micah 5:4 NKJV). Why shall we abide secure? The answer is: "For now He shall be great to the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4 NKJV).

He - Christ - is everywhere available, everywhere to the ends of the earth, wherever there is faith and the sacraments of the Church, especially the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23) and the Eucharist. Because of Christ's presence, we are at peace, for he is our peace, enabling us to abide secure, fed by the strength and majesty of the Lord.

"And this One shall be peace" (Micah 5:5 NKJV).

Christ himself is our peace. That is why on Christmas night we sing, "Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace" (Silent Night). He is the Prince of Peace. We sing in joy to welcome him, the source of heavenly peace, the source of Christmas peace, the source of the peace of God on earth.



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