4th Sunday of Advent, Year C (2021): Mic 5:2-5a, Lk 1:39-45

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Homily Notes for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C (2021): Mic 5:2-5a, Lk 1:39-45

·  The past few months have seen pilgrimages slowly return to the Holy Land, of which no pilgrimage is complete without a visit to the little Town of Bethlehem of Ephrathah, said once by the prophet Micah to be least of tribes of Judah but from whom would be born one who would rule Israel (and all creation) and whose origin is from ancient days.

·  Today Bethlehem is not a quiet little town but seamlessly flows into the city of Jerusalem yet with one notable and unsettling feature: that the entire town is separated from Jerusalem by a massive concrete wall with barb wire and watch towers with armed guards on patrol.

·  Every pilgrim bus will experience the at times imposing ordeal of having to stop before this massive security wall, have your bus inspected by a local security official and then proceed to enter the city of Bethlehem as you make your way to the Church of the Nativity and the shepherds’ fields where the first to see the new born Messiah of the world watched their flocks by night.

·  If Jesus was prophesied to be the one who from Bethlehem would first be called peace and shepherd the peoples of the world under the majesty of the name of the Lord His God, peace and comfort are not immediately felt in Bethlehem anymore as you see the imposing security wall separate the city of Our Saviour from the rest of the world and look at the various works of art and protest graffiti that mark the security wall, calling out for justice, peace and freedom for those who experience oppression and hostility in the town of Bethlehem.

·  Even a visit to the Church of the Nativity, built over the location where it is believed the manager once stood that provided the birthplace for Jesus Christ, has unsettling marks of violence, noticeable the doors of the church which were initially made in such a way that you need to bend down low to get through them, in part as a sign of humility as you enter the place where Jesus was once born, but also an ancient security measure to prevent armed horse men from entering the holy sanctuary to attack pilgrims as was too common in years past. The presence of a large statue of St George, a popular patron of the Holy Land, slaying a dragon, is also within this church as a visible reminder of the violence that has visited Bethlehem for 2000 years and the ways the small Christian community there are perpetually praying for peace and security.

·  Bethlehem today is a sign and reminder that while Christ was born into the world to be the prince of peace and bring healing and reconciliation to the human family, the reign of Christ continues to be challenged by the forces of violence, hate and oppression that occur in too many hearts in the world today, hearts that have been hardened by past hurts and abide in fear for the future.

·  But Bethlehem is also a sign of hope for better days when we remember that it was from this now oppressed city that Christ came into our world and promised to abide with all who sought it follow him whom Elizabeth long ago meet when Mary entered her presence and the saviour of the world from his throne within the womb of His Mother filled her soul with joy and her unborn child John with the splendour of the Holy Spirit.

·  It is moments like what Elizabeth experienced, a passing and momentary infusion of joy, that we need to hold onto in a world of upheaval and fear.

·  With Christmas now just a few days away, let us ask the Lord to place that sense of joy in our hearts to help us celebrate the true meaning of Christmas: That Christ was born Bethlehem to save you and I and to give the world a peace the powers of this world cannot give.

·  May I also invite each of us to remember the Christians of Bethlehem this year. It is estimated 1 billion dollars was lost in the local Bethlehem Christian community during the pandemic, leading to more and more young Christians leaving the city of David due to rapid unemployment and lack of opportunities to raise their families.

·  It is this time of year at every parish the world over is so grateful for those donations were receive at year’s end. May I ask that in addition to the gifts you will provide your parishes this year that you might also consider a donation to the Christians of Bethlehem?

·  CNEWA, a papal charity, est 1929 is one such charity that assures economic support is given directly to the Christians of Bethlehem to help them continue to live in the city of Christmas and assure a Christian presence remains where our saviour was once born.