Any good parent will relate to how God is portrayed in this Sunday’s first reading from Isaiah. He’s the ultimate Dad, telling his child to ask for guidance when he gets into trouble. But does the kid listen? NO! He has to get himself mired in a bog that he can’t step out of. So Dad has to step in and protect the kid from himself. In the first reading on this fourth Sunday of Advent Isaiah gives voice to a Father’s frustration about a kid who can’t get along with others. Remember that old Dad saying, “Don’t make me come down there!”?  Well, we made Him come down here:

“Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.”

Emmanuel means “God is With Us,” as Matthew tells us in this Sunday’s gospel reading.  Jesus came to be with us to save us from ourselves. He taught us the good news of God’s saving grace and left us a salvation kit filled with faith, hope and love. But to make the contents of that package survive the centuries he also bequeathed wisdom to his apostles, who handed down to us a permanent record of Christ’s teachings. Paul explained this gift to the Romans, as well as his own role in delivering it:

“Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.”

We have all heard that call loud and clear. It is a Christmas gift offered by our Father, and it is up to us to receive it or reject it. We can thank Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, for having that choice to make because we wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for the gift of faith he accepted from the angel of God, who told him:

“do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”

Faith, hope and love; what great Christmas gifts! Don’t return them. Re-gift them.