It is “beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. While that may be true, the way it is meant by the culture is not always consistent with the real sense of anticipation of Christmas.

As Catholics, we will continue to prepare for Christmas through the 24th of December. That includes the celebration of the Fourth week of Advent, this Sunday, December 23rd. The readings for this Sunday continue the sense of unfolding or revelation that characterizes Advent.

The first reading, from the Book of Judges, describes the events surrounding the birth of Samson. His mother, like Mary, was told by an angel, that she would have a son who was destined for greatness. Said the angel,

“It is he who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines.” (Judges 13: 2+).

So Samson and was dedicated as a Nazirite, a holy man who was to honor God with his life and provide an example to others. Samson pre-figured Christ – with one significant difference- he was imperfect. For much of his life, he used His God-given gifts- his strength, his ability to lead, even his handsome appearance not as God intended, but as Samson chose. Yet in the end, Samson returned to God and finished his life praying for God’s help to accomplish it.

The second reading is from the Gospel of Luke and may be a more familiar story to us, as it tells us about John the Baptist. Though this story is very similar to the Angel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary, the angel appears not to John’s mother but to his father, and tells him:

…”Do not be afraid, Zechariah,

because your prayer has been heard.

Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,

and you shall name him John.

And you will have joy and gladness,

and many will rejoice at his birth,

for he will be great in the sight of the Lord”. (Luke 1:5+)

Though Zechariah questioned the angel and was, therefore, rendered mute until the birth of John, Zechariah’s flaw did not prevent God’s will as John was the precursor of Christ.

These stories are an essential part of our preparation for Christmas. Only by understanding God’s movement throughout human history and his desire to work through all creation – even human beings, to bring salvation to us through His son, are we truly prepared to understand and celebrate Christmas.

So finish Advent, if you truly want to celebrate Christmas!

May the blessings of Christmas be with you and your families.