December 19: “Lord let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

December 19, 2021                              Fourth Sunday of Advent

Introduction

Have you ever taken a moment to imagine what God looks like?

  • In the psalm response that we used for our Mass today, you said “Lord let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

Theophany

There is something deep in the human psyche which desires something concrete and tangible that can be seen and touched.

  • We want to see God.

Manifestations of God presence 

As a result, over the ages people have yearned to see the face of God.

  • However, God would not let anyone see what he looked like.
  • God always appeared in what we call a theophany.
  • A theophany is a visible manifestation that mediates God’s presence.
  • When God appeared to Moses, he appeared in the fire of a burning bush.
  • Similarly, on Mount Sinai he appeared again to Moses through a terrible storm of fire, thunder and lightning.
  • Finally, Moses implored him, “let me see your face.” The response was, “no one can see my face and live.”
  • Eventually, God gave in and let Moses see his back.
  • The prophet Elijah also wanted to see God’s face.
  • However, God would not permit it.

Skin on it

This reminds me of the story of a child who was afraid of thunderstorms.

  • One particular night there was a very violent thunderstorm.
  • There was lightning and thunder that would shake the house.
  • A little boy lay there in bed completely terrified.
  • He grabbed his pillow and hid underneath the covers feeling very frightened and alone.
  • During A brief break in the storm, the little guy jumped out of bed, ran down the hall into his parent’s room, jumped into their bed and hugged his mother.
  •  Naturally, she hugged him back. He stopped shaking.
  • She then asked him, “why didn’t you pray to God when you are afraid during the storm?”
  • His answer is quite revealing, he responded, “mom, I tied to but I needed something with skin on it.”

When it comes to God we need something with skin so we might see his face.

The Readings

That brings us to the readings for this weekend. 

God finally has skin.

Reading from Micah

Our first reading is a reading from the book of the prophet Micah.

  • We hear from him only once in the three-year cycle of church readings. 
  • Like Zephaniah, whom we heard from last week, Micah is not a well-known prophet like Isaiah, Jeremiah or Ezekiel.
  •  For the most part, he was a prophet of gloom and zoom.
  • However, this little piece we have today, is an exception.
  •  Here he makes an important declaration.
  • It is in Bethlehem, the smallest of the towns of Judah, that the Messiah will be born.
  • Bethlehem was a small village about 5 miles outside of Jerusalem.
  • Essentially it had no notoriety other than the birthplace of King David.
  • It was a place inhabited primarily by Shepherd’s and sheep.
  • Of all the places in Israel, it was probably the most unlikely place where the promised One of Israel would be born.

The gospel 

The gospel records the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. It is filled with joy and exuberance. 

  • John the Baptist, yet to be born, leaps with joy in the womb because salvation is about to unfold. God who is faithful now fulfills his promise.
  • Now all people will finally get to see the face of God.
  • All of the speculation and anticipation of past ages from Adam to Elizabeth and John the Baptist, will be realized in Jesus.
  • Jesus is the face of the living God.
  •  If you want to see what God is like, you see him in the face of Jesus.
  • The Incarnation is a fantastic mystery.
  •  Here the impossible happens: The eternal God enters human time.

No one has ever seen his face before, but now he is visible.

Application

Our readings for mass today tell us two things. 

Bethlehem 

In the fact that God chose Bethlehem to be the place of birth for his Son, reminds us that, more often than not, God chooses the lowly and unexpected to be the channels of his activity.

  • No one would have suspected that Bethlehem would be remembered for ages to come as the birthplace of the Messiah.
  • Bethlehem not only had a place in God’s heart, but from the first Christmas it is in the hearts of all Christians. 
  • Frequently we assume God should act in a particular way.
  • However, we have to remember God will choose to act in the way he wants.
  •  Sometimes it is unexpected and an anticipated.

Example of Mary

Second of all, we have the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the gospel today.

  • There She is called “blessed” three times.
  • She is blessed because she is the one who heard the Word of God in the message of the angel and she kept it in her heart and conceived the Son of God.
  • We to must embrace that same living word, the Son of the God, that we might give him a central place in our lives.

Conclusion and Gospel Challenge

Christmas is only a few days away. Today we pray, “Lord let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

  • Here’s the gospel challenge for this week. 
  • Carve out a few moments in your busy schedule.
  • Do your best to remove distractions, open your Bible and read the passage from Saint Luke that recalls the birth of Jesus. 
  • Let those familiar words once again stir your heart in preparation for the celebration of the birth of the Savior

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