December 21, 2014
A HOMILY FOR THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
2 Samuel 7:1-1-1,16; The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38
In Jesus Christ we have the revelation that God is love. God loves us. Because we believe this, we come to experience that love, to see it in our lives and in the lives of others. God is love-that is a revelation of faith. You will not be able to prove this in a laboratory, or weigh, measure or quantify God’s love, but with faith you and I can feel it and see it at work in our lives and in the lives of others.
The tradition of Advent wreaths originated among Lutherans in Germany in the 19thcentury, and spread to other Christian denominations from there. The traditional Advent wreath is ever green and fresh, made as it is with evergreen boughs. If in our tropics that lasting fresh greenness is not possible, well, the Lord will have to overlook and forgive our use of plastic fronds and fake ivy.
We have lit today the candle of Faith, the last of the four Advent candles. The Advent wreath and its candles invite us to embark on a spiritual journey amid all the hurly burly of the commercial part of the Christmas season. Let us summarize our journey together this Advent Season. We began Advent with the candle of hope, moving then to the candle of peace. Last Sunday we lit the candle of joy. Now the candle of faith burns alongside the other three, and there is but one candle left to light, the Christ Candle, where hope, peace, joy and faith are all met in the Incarnate Savior. Advent is about the longing and need we have for the presence of Jesus in this world and in our lives-it is a journey of faith begun in hope, in search of peace and joy which ends with the revelation of God’s love for us made manifest in the Incarnation of his only begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary.
What is faith? Do you have faith? Are you and I people of faith? Can you define faith? How does faith work in your lives? Let’s turn to the Bible for a definition of faith. This is from Chapter 11 of the Epistle to the Hebrews: “1- Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the men of old received divine approval. 3 By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear”. Several centuries later, the great theologian Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe”. Saint Paul also speaks to us of faith in his letter to the Corinthians. In this letter he links faith along with hope and love as the three main virtues, with love as the greatest of the three. Nonetheless they are linked one to the other, go hand in hand, and cannot be readily separated one from the other. So hope leads to faith, and faith marches together with hope and love.
The candle of hope we lit the first Sunday in Advent invites us to pray for a better world, for the coming of God’s reign; for that time when there is no longer any pain, or suffering, nor crying, where God shall wipe every tear and Death will be no more. The hope for peace leads us to the second candle where we pray for the coming of the Messiah. Emmanuel, God with us, will bring us that peace with and among our fellow men and women which we are unable to attain through our own efforts.
Last week we lit the pink candle, the candle of Joy. In a world full of sorrow and depression we pray for joy. We ask for the joy that is in Jesus, that we may feel the joyous meaning of that birth in Bethlehem, and in experiencing that joy, find peace and renewed hope. And today our Advent journey brings us to the candle of faith.
In the Bible, faith is intimately related to the promises that God makes to men and women. God promises Abraham that he will give him a land for his own and descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham does not ask for pictures of the promised property. His wife is barren. He has no direct heir. Nonetheless he believes, and by faith leaves the house of his father and sets out for the unknown land that God has promised him. He fathers two sons and each becomes a founder of great nations, Ishmael of the Arabs, and Isaac of the Jews. After the death of Sarah his wife, Abraham will sire other children by subsequent wives. God’s promises, believed by faith, become reality.
Faith is central to the scripture readings we heard today. We heard the promise God makes to King David through Nathan the prophet “Your house and your kingdom will be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever”. The Jewish kingdom of David disappeared as a political entity, but in the Annunciation made to Mary by the angel Gabriel, the promise is made that the child she will conceive “will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end”.
Mary is a teenager, perhaps as young as fourteen, certainly no older than eighteen. This visitation must have been a terrifying encounter for her, yet her response is one of faith: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”. In this she joins with Abraham, Moses and the prophets in accepting by faith the message brought by the messenger of God. And in her song of praise to God which we recited today she recognizes that she is the instrument through which “He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.” This is why we join with her cousin Elizabeth in saying of Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb”.
|Casa Convento Concepcion, Antigua, Guatemala, (home of St. Alban Mission, Episcopal diocese of Guatemala)|
If Advent is about our longing for Jesus, Mary is God’s instrument, chosen to be the mother of God incarnate, the only begotten Son Jesus. So Advent is Mary’s season also. In the Episcopal Church the penitential purple of Advent is gradually shading into the blue which is the color of the Virgin. Indeed the Mother of God is blessed above all women.
A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE from ARMANDO GUERRA SORIA, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Province of the Central America Region
|The Most Reverend Armando Guerra Soria, Primate IARCA|
MENSAJE DE NAVIDAD DEL OBISPO PRIMADO (EN FUNCIONES) A LA PROVINCIA ANGLICANA DE LA REGIÓN CENTRAL DE AMÉRICA
«Y aquel Verbo fue hecho carne, y habitó entre nosotros (y vimos su gloria, gloria como la del unigénito del Padre) lleno de gracia y de verdad» San Juan 1:14
Navidad: tiempo de reflexión y de esperanza
El misterio de la Encarnación ha cautivado en todas las épocas las mentes más privilegiadas, tanto por su simplicidad como por su complejidad. Simplicidad por cuanto requiere un acto de fe que sólo demanda creer que Dios en su infinito amor envió a su Hijo Unigénito para salvarnos de la muerte y del pecado asumiendo para ello nuestra naturaleza humana. Y, complejidad por cuanto nuestra facultad de razonamiento no puede penetrar completamente en los secretos de la naturaleza y voluntad de Dios. Dejemos lo segundo a los Teólogos y Filósofos y nosotros, los que no hemos necesitado más que creer, gocémonos en el hecho histórico del nacimiento de JESUS el HIJO de DIOS quien con su advenimiento nos llenó de vida y esperanza de un mundo nuevo en el que hay paz, justicia y vida de calidad abundante.
Inspirados en el pensamiento anterior, invito a los Obispos, Clérigos y Laicos de nuestra Provincia y a nuestros amigos en general, a que renovemos nuestros esfuerzos en construir un mundo mejor del cual erradiquemos la discriminación, la violencia y la pobreza. Y en los que respecta a nuestra Provincia oremos para que en el próximo Sínodo Extraordinario nos guíe en la elección del líder espiritual que los tiempos presentes requieren.
Su Gracia Rvdma. Armando Román Guerra Soria,