Reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A)

                                              Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Back in the day, when there was no internet or mobile phones, people had a more personal and experiential way of encountering events by accessing some intelligible signs. A sign generally points to something other than itself. Another way of describing a sign is that it gives a “heads-up.” I recall that as kids, we could know what our parents wanted us to do by looking at their faces for certain signals. Young people nowadays would like you to speak, text, or chat to know exactly what you want to communicate; some do not even understand facial signs.

We live in a world of signs; life would be highly unpredictable and unlivable without signs as helpful guides to the next line of action. God often communicates to humans using discernible signs. The First recorded sign was the sign of the rainbow, which God put in the sky after the flood as a covenant between Him and all creatures (Genesis 9: 12-13).

The “Ahazic” Situation

In the First Reading (Isaiah 7:10-14), the Lord asked Ahaz to ask for a sign from the Lord that would be as deep as the netherworld or as high as the sky. Ahaz refused to ask for a sign with the excuse that he wouldn’t want to put the Lord to the test. The Lord gave him this sign: “the virgin shall conceive, bear a son, and name him Emmanuel.

To understand God’s invitation to ask for a sign, we must understand the background of the narrative. During the reign of Ahaz, the king of Judah, Rezin, the King of Aram, and Pekah, the king of Israel, allied to fight him and sack Jerusalem, but for an unknown reason, they could not carry out the attack.

However, Ahaz was greatly disturbed and planned to ally with the King of Assyria for assistance and protection. At the point of despair and apprehension, God instructed him to ask for a sign as deep as the netherworld and as high as the sky.

Ahaz was in a situation of hopelessness. He had a foreign enemy, the King of Aram, and a household enemy, the King of Israel. Do we not often find ourselves in a similar Ahazic situation confronted by both seen and unseen forces? We are often unsure and confused like Ahaz until God shows up with a helpful sign.

Joseph, the husband of Mary, found himself in a similar “Ahazic” confusion (Matt. 1:18-24) when he discovered that Mary had become pregnant before they could live together. The scripture tells us that he was righteous, but that was not enough to shield him from the confusion.

It took the appearance of an angel in a dream to defray his fear of taking Mary to be his wife and for him to accept the situation as God’s plan activated through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The King, Ahaz, was himself, a sign that points to our humanity sieged by sin and the devil. Like in the case of Ahaz, God’s grace kept us still until the fulfillment of the great sign about the Virgin who would conceive and bear a Son and whose name would be Emmanuel. The mission of Emmanuel is the reason for this sign.

The Sign of Love

Socio-cultural and religious conventions use the image of the heart to represent love, so wherever we see the conical shape in red, we think about love. The heart represents love because it sits at the core of our being, and the red color represents life which is also the color of blood. So, there is an organic relationship between love and life; life is powered by love, and God is love (1 John 4:8).

The sign of the birth of Emmanuel is proof of God’s love. Recall that the name “Emmanuel” means “God-with-us” (Matt. 1:23). Question: “Has God not always been with us? He has. But with the birth of Emmanuel, God comes to be with us as one of us. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Moving Forward: Dispensing the Signals of Love

The best way to love is by sacrificially sharing it. Love shared is love multiplied. Recall the Lord’s mandate of love during the last supper: “A new commandment I give you: Love one another as I have loved you… By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Love gives identity to true believers in Christ, so Christianity without love is a joke.

Love is not optional. Love is a commandment. God sent the signal of love to Ahaz, not minding his status in righteousness, so love is unconditional. St. Paul reminds us (Romans 5:8) that God demonstrated His love for us and that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Love comes with giving, not feeling. John tells us that God loves us so much that He GAVE His Son (John 3:16). To love is to give!

If we have received such an immeasurable dose of love from God in Jesus Christ the Emmanuel, this Fourth and last Sunday of Advent thus challenges us to dispense the same signal of love to people around us.

This is the time to reflect God in our lives by assisting those who might be going through some “Ahazic” experiences. We don’t need to wait for them to ask for help, as God did not wait for Ahaz to ask for help or a sign but extended his protection before promising the Emmanuel.

The greatest sign we have received from God is love, which is also the greatest gift we can give anyone. Let us continue to spread the love of God as we await the Emmanuel. The last and most important item we need before Christmas, after hope, peace, and joy, is love. Christmas will be incomplete without love!  

God bless you!

Fr. Bonnie.   


  1. Thanks Fr Bonnie for your inspirational homily. May God who is Christ, Emmanuel, help us to know that in spite of our apparent difficulties and things not going the way we expect, He is with us till the end of time. (Matthew 28:20). Amen.

  2. May the Lord bless His words in our hearts-Amen. Thanks, Fada Nwannem, for this reflection. We pray that in our state of confusion that God will direct us. May we love one another as we love ourselves.

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