3rd Sunday Of Advent Year C
Theme of the week: Welcome Christ into our hearts, and live our lives to the theme of Emmanuel, i.e. God is with us.
The arrival of Jesus on earth is an event unprecedented in human history – that God allows himself to be incarnated on earth and live among us. This is the meaning behind one of Jesus’ name, Emmanuel, which means God is with us. As we reflect on the amazing outpouring of grace associated with the event of the Incarnation, we are reminded to live our lives to the theme of Emmanuel, that God is with us in our daily lives; that we should live our lives in reverence to and in accordance to the teachings of Christ.
The Book of Zephaniah is widely believed to be written during the period of the Divided Kingdom, when King Josiah reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Judah (640-609BC). Unlike many of his predecessors, King Josiah is a good king who lived his life to the theme of Emmanuel. King Josiah worshipped the Lord. In the First Reading, the prophet Zephaniah creates a sense of expectancy for the arrival of the Lord, with two mentions of the phrase the Lord “is in your midst” (verse 15 and verse 17). At a superficial level, Zephaniah was referring to the new found reverence of the monarchy in the Lord, that God has found a home in the heart of the king. The passage takes on a deeper meaning when we consider the fact that the phrase “in your midst”, or Emmanuel, is the name of our Lord Jesus. Hence, allegorically, beyond the phenomenon of a reverent king, the passage also foretells the birth of the Jesus, when God himself would come down and live among us.
The Gospel records an account of John the Baptist preaching and baptising on the bank of the Jordan River. We read that upon hearing the teachings of John, the expectancy of the arrival of the Messiah was aroused among the people, and many of them questioned whether John is in fact the Messiah. John denied he is the Messiah; and was quick to stress that when Christ comes, John is not even fit to untie the thong of his sandals (verse 16). Though he is not the Christ, John nevertheless provided us instructions on the kind of lives we should strive to in preparation for the arrival of the Christ; that we should help the poor; refrain from extortions and false accusations; and be satisfied with one’s own material blessings (verse 11-14). In other words, we should lead our lives to the theme of Emmanuel.
In Matthew 7:7 and Luke 11:9, Jesus promised us: “Ask, and it will be given to you”. It can easily be misunderstood that the reason we live our lives to the theme of Emmanuel is for tangible, material rewards. Not so! The Second Reading teaches us that “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. In other words, the Lord will not grant us everything we ask for. Instead, we should pray for our needs with a thanksgiving heart, and the Lord will always answer our prayer in the manner his infinite wisdom sees fit. While we may not always understand the Lord’s response to our prayer, we should nevertheless be rest assured that God has our best interest at heart when he answers our prayers in the manner he sees fit. Ask ourselves this: How often have I tried to bend God’s will to fit mine? And how often have I been left disappointed when the Lord did not answer my prayers in the manner I desired. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts, so that we may shape our will to align with God’s will instead.
May the peace of Christ enter your heart this Christmas.