Advent is the season of the prophets and the Scripture readings of these weeks and days before Christmas help us to focus our vision and deepen our longing for the Messiah. After the prophets died, even if their words seemed already to have been fulfilled, their sayings were handed on and became the vehicle through which the community expressed its hopes, dreams and aspirations.
At a given point in history, a group of Jews who identified with the long, rich prophetic tradition of Israel encountered in the flesh a man named Jesus of Nazareth. Their experience of this remarkable man transformed their lives in deeply significant ways. They would never be the same because of him. What did that early group of followers and believers say of Jesus: “He is the man of our dreams. In him, all our hopes and aspirations of our people have found fulfillment.” In this way we can say that the prophetic texts of ancient Israel were all speaking about Jesus. This kind of affirmation or assertion cannot be verified by neutral historical study of critical analysis of texts. Only those who have shared the dreams and visions of Israel, and have experienced Jesus in their lives, just as the first Christians did, can proclaim that Jesus is truly “the man of our dreams”.
The promise of a savior is astonishing news for the people who were desperate for a savior. In Isaiah, when King Ahaz was beset by foreign powers, he looked for an alliance with one of the foreign kings. But Isaiah counseled trust not in foreign governments but in God. Isaiah promised the birth of a child named Immanuel, "God with us." In Matthew's story, the child Immanuel is Jesus, God with us, the one who will save people from their sins.
Part of the astonishing surprise of the announcement of the Savior is how inclusive it is. On the one hand, Jesus is a Jew descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a man of royal lineage descended from the renowned King David. On the other hand, the salvation incarnate in Jesus extends beyond the people of Israel to include the gentiles. Let us rejoice in this good news of great joy for all the people. Let us thank God together for the hopes and dreams of Israel that have been handed down to us, and that are at the heart of the Christmas story each year.
Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B.,
C.E.O.,Salt and Light Catholic Television Network