BETWEEN PROMISE AND FULFILLMENT
4th Sunday of Advent
December 22, 2013
BETWEEN PROMISE AND FULFILLMENT.
Prophets definitely lived in interesting times. Isaiah was no exemption to this. He prophesied – or at least, tried to – during times when the southern Kingdom of Judah was in dire straits, threatened by dissolution by the powerful Assyrians. But interesting times are brought about by interesting characters – by individuals whose claim to big power is just matched by their big egos.
Ahaz was one such narcissistic leader. He wouldn’t listen to anyone, least of all Isaiah. He wouldn’t trust anyone, including the Lord Himself, who was ready to give a sign just so the Kingdom wouldn’t perish and go down in shame.
Our society and culture now, are full of such narcissists. In this age of selfies, where the case called “impression management” is the name of the game in social media and everywhere, leaders who make it on top, business people who reach the pinnacle of success, and dreamy-eyed idealists whose dreams are taller than the tower of Babel, apparently rule the roost.
Bu the God of humility cannot be overrun and downtrodden by the gods and goddesses of pride, hubris, and self-centeredness. “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
That was the sign that sounded more like a promise. It was a promise whose fulfillment historically took place many centuries later. It is a sign whose actualization and full realization is still unfolding, even here, even now … in history, as well as in mystery.
Today is the last Sunday of Advent. History makes us look back and the sign and promise of the virgin giving birth has taken place one dark, cold night in Bethlehem. But today, too, precisely being 4th Sunday of Advent, we celebrate more than just a historical fact. We celebrate and look forward – not simply backward – and set our sight using the eyes of faith on something yet to happen, something yet unfolding, something yet becoming real in our lives, in our present, and in our future.
Let us put it bluntly. Christmas is not just simple history. There is more than just backward memory in our faith. Our Christian faith is one that does not make sense just by spelling it backwards. Backmasking is not what Christianity is all about. Christianity is about the past, the now, and the coming times – the end times!
For Christmas – the kind we Christians look forward to – is all about promise. It, too, is all about fulfillment. Christ was born. Yes… Christ is still being born … Christ will yet be born in each and everyone of us. This is exactly what we mean when we say: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
The present right here, right now is no different from the time of Judah during Ahaz’ reign. There is uncertainty. There is a whole lot of challenges and obstacles to living our faith as the prophets would have us do.
The Lord offers us more than just a sign. The Lord, in fact, offers us solid promises. And history is on our side as Christ, the promised One, has come in flesh.
But between promise and fulfillment, there is a big gap. But that gap is not on the part of God who is a God of promises and a God of fulfillment. That gap has nothing to do with God walking out of His “talk” … No, it has to do with the likes of Ahaz, the likes of us, individually and collectively. God did His end of the promise, but the big question is whether we do our end of the fulfilling.
There is a clue in today’s readings … Somebody listened. Somebody was paying attention. And then he did what was missing between the promise and the fulfillment … Simply put, it is this: “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
Come on guys! Let’s listen and do accordingly. Let us fill in the blanks and help make the promise bloom into reality.