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BEFORE THE CROSS | The future will be fulfilled in a pattern that focuses on Jesus

As Christmas approaches, the readings focus on fulfillment found in Scripture

Christmas is right around the corner. As we experience a natural sense of our preparations coming to fulfillment, the Scripture readings this week also focus on the theme of fulfillment.

On Dec. 17, Monday of the third week of Advent, the Old Testament reading tells us how the line of Judah will always rule in Israel; the Gospel tells us how Jesus is born from the line of Judah. On Tuesday, the prophet Jeremiah foretells the restoration of the Davidic kingship; the Gospel tells us how Joseph took Mary into his home, assuring that Jesus would be born in the Davidic line. On Wednesday, the Old Testament tells us of the conception of Samson, who would be consecrated to the Lord from the womb; the Gospel tells us about the conception of John, who would be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. On Thursday, the prophet Isaiah tells us that “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name Him Emmanuel;” the Gospel tells us of the conception of Jesus by the Virgin Mary.

The Scripture readings match our sense of Christmas drawing near: at every turn, we have a sense of things coming to their fulfillment.

Perhaps the best summary is in the Psalm refrain for Thursday: “Let the Lord enter; He is the king of glory.” In its original context, this line refers to the entry of God’s presence, in the ark of the covenant, into the Temple. In the context of the readings of the day, where the Gospel is the Annunciation, the line refers to the entry of God’s presence into the womb of Mary. Finally, in the context of the spiritual life, it refers to the entry of God’s presence into the soul of each person. The pattern is repeated, but also deepened. That’s what it means, in Scripture, for something to be fulfilled.

This idea of fulfillment should deepen our sense of time. When the Gospel of Matthew recites the genealogy of Jesus, we get a glimpse into how Judaism understood time. A man’s genealogy was not just a question of his past. It was history that lived in his bones.

What does a Christian make of time? The theme of fulfillment gives us a clue. Looking back, we can see how things in the past came together in God’s plan — how patterns were repeated and deepened, culminating in Jesus. Looking ahead, we can have faith that things of the future will also be fulfilled in a pattern that focuses on Jesus.

But that raises a question. Looking back, we can see all the ways that people could have prepared better for the coming of Jesus in Bethlehem. Looking ahead, can we prepare better for the coming of Jesus at the end of time?

The things that were foretold about God’s first coming in history were fulfilled. We make preparations to celebrate that on Christmas. The things that were foretold about His second coming will also be fulfilled. Are we preparing, in faith, for them?

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