Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent
(Jeremiah 23:5-8; Matthew 1:18-24)
Listening to the children of God’s poor, we may receive an entirely new concept of “Christmas gift.” Once, a missionary went to the highlands of Honduras to celebrate mass on the night after Christmas Day. Arriving early in the evening, he attended the meeting of the youth group. The group’s director asked the missionary to say something. He only inquired about the children’s Christmas gifts. But the children did not seem to understand. Rather than describe any toy or clothing they received, they only mentioned how they would be more obedient to their parents and more prayerful. Then the priest realized that he was the one who misunderstood. The children came from families too destitute to provide material gifts for them. “Christmas gifts” were what they all did for Jesus.
In the reading today from Jeremiah, the prophet provides us with a similarly new concept of the “promised land.” He foresees the descendants of Israel taking up residence on their rightful territory. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by giving us, the new Israelites because of our relationship with him, a share in the new “promised land.” To be sure, our destiny is not real estate in Israel. Rather, if we but observe his commandments, it is a place at the Lord’s table in heaven.