FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT ‑ CYCLE A
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
Pray and ask God to speak to you through His Holy Spirit.
“THE PARACLETE, THE HOLY SPIRIT WHOM THE FATHER WILL SEND IN MY NAME, WILL INSTRUCT YOU IN EVERYTHING, AND REMIND YOU OF ALL THAT I TOLD YOU.” (JOHN 14:26)
FIRST DAY Reread last week’s readings.
- What was a helpful or new thought from the readings or from the homily you heard on Sunday?
- From what you learned, what personal application did you choose to apply to your life this week?
SECOND DAY READ ISAIAH 7:10‑14 FIRST READING
(“Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign.”)
- To whom did the Lord speak and through whom did he speak? Isaiah 7:10 & Isaiah 7:3
- Who is Ahaz? Isaiah 7:1
- For what was Ahaz to ask God? Isaiah 7:11
- What was Ahaz’s answer to this question? Isaiah 7:12
- What did Isaiah say to Ahaz? Isaiah 7:13
- What did the Lord give Ahaz? Isaiah 7:14
- What was the sign he gave him? Isaiah 7:14
- What did the Pharisees and teachers of the law say to Jesus, and what was his answer? Matthew 12:38‑40
- What was the sign given to the shepherds? Luke 2:12, 16‑17
Personal – In what way have you wearied God by constantly looking for signs other than the virgin birth? How is Jesus your sign?
THIRD DAY READ ROMANS 1:1‑7 SECOND READING
(“Through him we have been favored with apostleship.”)
- Who was sending greetings and how does he refer to himself? Romans 1:1
- What is he called to be and for what is he set apart? Romans 1:1
- Where is recorded what he promised long ago through his prophets? Romans 1:2
- Whom is the Gospel concerning, from whom did he descend and how did he descend from him? Romans 1:3
- How was he made Son of God? Romans 1:4
- For what two reasons have you been called? Romans 1:5
- What are we to spread concerning his name? Acts 4:12
- To whom have we been called to belong? Romans 1:6
- To whom was Paul speaking? Romans 1:7
- To what did he say they had been called and what does he greet them with from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Romans 1:7
Personal ‑ In what way do you see yourself called to spread the name of Jesus just as Paul was? How can you become an apostle for Jesus to your family and friends?
FOURTH DAY READ MATTHEW 1:18‑24 GOSPEL
(“She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”)
- How did the birth of Jesus Christ come about? Matthew 1:18
- Through the power of whom was Mary found to be with child? Matthew 1:18
- Who was Joseph and what kind of a man was he? Matthew 1:19
- What was Joseph’s intention, how did the angel of the Lord appear to him, and what did he say to him? Matthew 1:19-20
- When was another time an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, what did he tell him to do, and what was his response? Matthew 2:13‑14
- What did the angel say Mary would have, what was she to name him, and for what reason? Matthew 1:21
- Why did all this happen, who was the prophet, and what did he say? Matthew 1:22, Isaiah 7:14
- What does his name mean and what did Joseph do when he awoke? Matthew 1:23-24, Isaiah 8:8, 10
- As Joseph recognized God speaking to him through an angel, what did his obedience show? John 14:21
- What did he not do before Mary bore a son, and what did Joseph name the child? Matthew 1:25
- What do the following scriptures say about the name of Jesus?
Acts 2:21 and 4:12
Personal ‑ When and where do you experience the presence of God the most in your life? What do you need to do to experience “Immanuel, God is with you” more completely in your life? How often do you think, feel, experience and call upon the name of Jesus in your everyday life?
FIFTH DAY READ PSALM 24:1‑6
(“He shall receive a blessing from the Lord.”)
Read and meditate on Psalm 24:1‑6.
What is the Lord saying to you personally through the Psalm?
How can you apply this to your life?
SIXTH DAY READ ALL OF THE COMMENTARY
This passage shows us the incredible generosity of God in his urging Ahaz to ask him for a sign. This sign would show Ahaz that God wanted to protect him and crush his enemies. The King refused and appeared almost righteous by stating that he would not test God with a sign. The truth of the matter was that God had told him to ask but Ahaz was not really sure what God would say. Many of us use the same excuse, saying that we do not want to bother God with our puny problems. This keeps us from being realistic and communicating honestly with him.
We need to seriously remember and hold fast to the scripture in 1 Corinthians 2:9: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him.” God loves us so much that he is constantly giving us signs of his presence and love. We need to reflect for a moment on how many times he has been present to us in the form of other people who are in our lives. God gave Ahaz and all of us the greatest sign of all time. He stated that a child shall be born to a virgin and she shall call him “Immanuel.” This means “God is with us” and he will always be with us even to the end of time (Matt. 28:20). This was a great prophecy of the Messiah.
Jewish people waited for over seven hundred years and when Christ was born in a lowly cave and took on the role of a helpless infant, the sign of all signs was ignored and missed by the non‑ believers. There are many people in the world today who are non‑ believers and who are looking for a sign. You are that sign, you are called to be that light. You are called to be an ambassador for God. They will know God is present by the sign of the way we love one another.
This passage was written by Paul who had not yet been to Rome. It was unthinkable to hear a Roman citizen call himself a slave; and yet, that is what Paul called himself, a slave to Jesus Christ. Paul chose to be completely obedient and dependent on his beloved Jesus. We need to reflect on our own attitude toward Christ. Is Christ your Master? Are you dependent on and obedient to Jesus Christ? Paul tells about Jesus being part of the Jewish royal line and being born and then dying and rising from the dead. Paul believed totally that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and the resurrected Lord. Paul tells the Romans of his agreement with the teaching of all scripture and of the traditional oral teaching of the apostles. Paul really emphasizes that God’s grace is an undeserved privilege and that it is also accompanied by a responsibility to share God’s forgiveness with others. This is our responsibility, to witness to the world. God may never call you to witness overseas, but he is calling you to witness where you are now. Rome was the capital of the world. The city was wealthy, literary, and artistic. It was a cultural center but in terms of morality, it was dying. Many great cities in the world are facing that same fate today. Christianity was at odds with many elements in the Roman culture.
The Romans trusted in their military power to protect them against their enemies. Does this type of thinking sound familiar? Christians were being exhorted to hold fast to their views on morality. We might well look around our own society and see whether the traditional family values such as sanctity of life, marriage, and chastity are being threatened by a godless way of life. Paul showed his love toward the Roman church by expressing God’s love for them, and we need to do just that too. We need to reach out and affirm our church leaders and tell them that we love them and support them in this ministry. We need to witness to Jesus’ commandment to “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
This passage addresses why a virgin birth is so important to the people of the Christian faith. Because Jesus was born of a woman, he was fully human. Also being the Son of God, he was both fully human and divine. We can relate totally with Jesus because he was human and he was like us and because he experienced every kind of temptation we experience today. In his whole life, Jesus never committed a sin. Because of this he understands our weakness and he offers us his forgiveness.
We can approach God with a reverence and yet boldness when we pray because we know that he truly understands our complete needs. We do not need to feel uncomfortable when we go before the Lord in prayer, as he loves us so much and he has been where we are now, and has the ability to help us. We need to understand the importance of the virgin birth in order to accept the situation that surrounded the birth of Jesus Christ. Mary was betrothed to Joseph when she became pregnant, and Joseph was confronted with only a few options to resolve the issue of his bride‑to‑be being pregnant, but not by him.
The Jewish marriage was the culmination of three stages. The first was when the couple became engaged, generally after their families agreed to their union. Later on, when a public announcement was made, the couple became “betrothed.” This was considered binding and broken only by divorce or death. There was no sexual relationship allowed however, until after the couple was married. The “betrothal” time was planning where to live, stocking the place with furniture, etc. Mary’s pregnancy displayed an apparent unfaithfulness that carried a severe social stigma. Joseph had a right according to Jewish law either to divorce her or to have her stoned in front of her father’s house (Deut. 22:23, 24). Joseph was told in a dream to follow God’s will and to take Mary for his wife. He was told by the Lord that Mary had conceived this child by the power of the Holy Spirit. Reflect for a moment how you would react to this type of a situation. Joseph chose to obey God’s command to marry her in spite of the obvious humiliation that they both experienced through the towns people. Joseph’s actions revealed several admirable qualities that the young men of today would do well to emulate. He displayed a stern principle, discretion and sensitivity. He was very responsive to God and displayed tremendous self‑discipline.
Joseph took God’s option and that was to marry Mary. God shows us that if we obey him, he will show us more options on how to live according to his will than we think possible. We must never forget that God took on the limitations of humanity so he could live and die for the salvation of all who believe in him.
The first reading shows us that God wants us to communicate (prayer) with him so that he can shower us with his incredible generosity. The second reading tells us that obedience and dependency on Jesus Christ is the only way to freedom. The Gospel reveals that boldness and reverence are what he wants from us in prayer.
Get down on your knees and thank Christ for coming to earth so that he could die on the cross for your sins. Then ask him to take control of your life and ask the members of your family to join you as you fall on your knees and give him praise and adoration for coming to be with you. That is why they called him “Immanuel.”