Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany when we recall the visit of the wise men to the Child Jesus in Bethlehem. These mysterious personages from the East clearly represent the Gentiles, they are both foreigners and followers of a religion other than Judaism.
The first Sunday after Christmas is always dedicated to the Holy Family. It comes very soon after Christmas Day and so perhaps we see even more clearly the link between the two celebrations.
As the old film told us, ‘Christmas comes but once a year.’ But every year, when it comes around, we never tire of celebrating it. As each year goes by, we grow a little older and probably also a little wiser and our understanding and insight into Christmas hopefully grows ever deeper.
We are now in the period of immediate preparation for Christmas and the scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent reflect this with the first reading being an extract from Isaiah which explicitly predicts the Virgin Birth. This text is chosen by the Church for the liturgy this Sunday in order to highlight the fact that it was not just the coming of a Messiah that was foretold in the Old Testament but even some of the circumstances of his birth, most especially the fact that he was to be born of a virgin mother.
Last week we heard about the ministry of John the Baptist and the text we read was taken from the very beginning of St Matthew’s Gospel after the section we call the Infancy Narrative and just before the account of Jesus’ Baptism.
In the middle two Sundays of Advent we hear a lot about John the Baptist. He is a very important figure in the Bible and in the history of our salvation since he uniquely bridges both the Old and New Testaments. It is not difficult to regard John the Baptist as the very last of the Old Testament Prophets and the picture painted of him in the extract from the Gospel we are presented with today certainly makes him look and sound like one of those prophets of old.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket