This is the Liturgy of the Hours for December 31. Your local date is .
Fourth Sunday in the Season of Advent
Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
A reflection on today’s Sacred Scriptures:
Today’s readings on this Fourth (and last) Sunday of Advent describe how God very dramatically and lovingly intervenes in human history when “there is no way out.”
In the first reading, God directly invites King Ahaz to ask for a sign that God would protect the southern kingdom of Judah from enemies that threaten to destroy it. Now, a wise leader would eagerly grasp at the opportunity. Not Ahaz, who in his pride has already decided on his own political solution! Isaiah decides to give him God’s sign anyway, saying, “The virgin shall conceive a child and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” Ahaz was not interested in God’s help. He foolishly trusted his own wisdom. As a result, the whole nation was defeated and sent into exile in Babylon.
The Gospel tells us of another man faced with a grave dilemma who did listen to God. Joseph, already bound by a solemn betrothal ceremony to take Mary as his wife, discovers to his dismay that she is with child. He can only suppose that she has been unfaithful to him, and is now subject to very severe laws that could result in her death if he exposes her. He takes the compassionate way out. He will divorce her quietly, exposing himself, not her, to shame. God intervenes through a dream in which an angel tells him the whole story. The angel tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for her child has God Himself as the Father! With incredible trust and humility, Joseph obediently agrees to the plan. What a contrast between this just man and crafty Ahaz!
At Christmas, God is asking of us what He asked of Mary and Joseph–complete trust in His plans. He wants each of us to help Him save His world again! He richly rewards those who say “Yes!” and accept His plans for their lives. It’s even more incredible that Jesus the God-man, in turn, entrusted His life to Joseph and Mary. Again, God entrusts the success of His plans to those who can love enough and sacrifice their plans for His own.
Advent has been all about getting ready to agree to let Joseph and Mary use our hearts for a manger. From there, Jesus can help our poor country and our poor world to rebuild His kingdom. He needs our witness, our courage in speaking His truth, and sharing His love. He so wants us to be part of a much larger Advent, when all those prophecies we heard read in the last few weeks will be brought to fulfillment. If we can only give a simple, unqualified “yes” as Mary and Joseph did, some amazing things may happen through us in the world we live in.
 Scripture for Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word
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