4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

We have two beautiful homilies by Father Hanly for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C: “Christmas: The Giver’s Feast” and “Mary.”

Two Homilies:

Christmas: The Giver’s Feast

Christmas: The Giver’s Feast

In his homily for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, Father Hanly has wonderful advice for all of us about Christmas and tells his much-loved basketball story.

Readings for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

  • First Reading: Micah 5:1-4
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
  • Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
  • Gospel: Luke 1:39-45



Christmas, of course, is many things, and I’m sure everybody has their own memories.

But one thing I think that can be said about Christmas, and maybe this is the right Sunday to say it, is that Christmas is a day that has a certain kind of atmosphere about it. It creates its own atmosphere.

(Inaudible), because of all the commercialization going on. And yet the playing of the carols, and all the beautiful ornaments, and things like that, lighten our hearts and are part of the season.

Also it’s a time when we look forward to large families getting together, perhaps, or old friends coming and exchanging greetings.

It has its own atmosphere, and the atmosphere, at its best, is an atmosphere of kindliness, an atmosphere of compassion, and an atmosphere of forgiveness.

I was reading about an old British man in his little castle in England. And he had a daughter that had moved to Ireland.

And she was in Ireland for a few years and they just weren’t talking because father and daughter had their difficulties. And both being quite stubborn, there was just this long silence.

And, finally, on Christmas, about two weeks before Christmas, he picked up the phone (and this is a man who is very, very hard to reach), he picked up the phone and invited her back to her home for the Christmas holidays.

She was so overwhelmed she couldn’t believe it, because he had never shown an ounce of moving in that direction. And she was happy, and she went, and they spent Christmas together.

It’s time to do that now, you know. Look around at your relatives and friends. Maybe give it a try. Because you should take advantage of the Christmas season. It is a built-in time for doing things like this.

It’s a time for forgiving. Let bygones be bygones. It’s a time when little pains give way to cheerful greetings and calling up people and getting back in touch with those that have kind of slipped by.

This would be what Christmas means. And this is what it means and this is very deep. It’s not just a kind way of a nice thing we do on holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

This is because God has made this feast day a feast of love. And until you touch love, you are not celebrating Christmas.

And best way to touch love is to touch God’s love.

And God’s love is what?

God’s love is forgiving. God’s love is caring. God is on the side of joy, on the side of happiness.

With great compassion, God so loves the world that He sends His Only Son. This is His Christmas gift.

And He knows what is going to happen. He knows that He will see His Only Son suffering on the cross. And His hands are tied and He can do nothing.

And so the sacrifice is very real. And in human terms.

And this is one of the reasons why Jesus comes and God becomes man: because He wants to experience as a human being the humanity of the people that He Himself has created.

And so Christmas is a great time.

It’s a time for all the silly little things that go with it: the little parties, and this and that and the other thing, and the cards and all the rest.

But it’s also a part of the deep understanding of the presence of God Himself among us, a presence that is not just for Christmas, but will carry us through, not just the season, and not just our lives, but into all eternity.

So, if you’ve been putting things off, like that card, or you have someone in your mind that you say, “Well, maybe I should invite them to the family meal,” or whatever you do, remember you are doing it because God is in your heart and He is whispering to you and He is saying, “This is what it means to be a Christian: to learn how to love, to learn how to care, to learn how to reach out in all the small things.”

And now I’ll tell you just a little story. This story is one I usually tell at Christmas time, because it is about my father. Christmas and my father are the same thing in my mind.

There was one Christmas. I can tell you the exact date: December 25th, 1945. The war had ended. And I was in my early teens and the passion in my life was to have a basketball. I would die for a basketball. For two reasons.

Number one is I loved to play basketball.

But the other reason was if you could play basketball in our neighborhood, which was a tough neighborhood, you could play the violin without anybody asking anything or having to apologize.

You could be a very kind and nice person without everybody saying, “Ne ne ne ne” like they do when kids get together.

You could be your own king of the block if you could play basketball, because everybody in our neighborhood respected a basketball player.

So, the basketball cost ten dollars. That seems like hardly anything. Ten dollars U.S. I guess it’s around eighty dollars in our change right now.

And I couldn’t ask my father for it. Because my father, if you asked him for it, he’d give it right away, you see. And my mother told me, “Don’t you ever ask your father for anything.” Why? Because he had to hunt around for the extra ten dollars, you see.

Anyhow, I prayed to the Blessed Mother, and I prayed to St. Denis, and I prayed to everybody that I could possibly pray to.

And I kept, when I was with my father, I dropped little hints like: “Yeah, do you know anything about basketball?”

And he was from Ireland and he said, “Yes, it looks like a very interesting game.”

I said, “Yes.” But he never asked why we were talking like this.

Anyhow, Christmas time came, and among the toys there was one box. And I knew right away it was big enough and square enough to hold just one thing, which was a basketball.

So I very carefully took it from under the tree and I opened it. And as soon as I looked inside…

It wasn’t a basketball. It was an English soccer ball. (Congregation laughs.)

Can you image? It was an English soccer ball. He didn’t know the difference between a basketball and a soccer ball.

And my heart just fell. And I kept trying to say, “I am not going to ruin his Christmas. He’s too (inaudible).” And I’m trying to be polite.

And he keeps saying, “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?”

And I say, “Nothing’s wrong with me. Everything’s fine. Everything is wonderful.”

And then he took me aside and he said, “It’s the basketball.”

And I said, “It is.”

And he said, “What’s wrong with it?”

I said, “It is not a basketball.” (Congregation laughs again.)

But I didn’t know this: you could take it back, you see, if you hadn’t played with it, and you could bring it back to the store and they’d exchange it.

And so he said to me, right away he said, “Tomorrow morning, we’re going to go right to that store. We’re going to take this ball and we’re going to get you a basketball.”

Simple story, you know, but Christmas is a time when you can be terribly disappointed.

And it goes with the season, because your hopes are on something and you become a little bit disappointed. This is true not only of children, but of adults and everyone else.

So remember: Christmas is the time when you think not about the basketball; you think about the giver. You think about the goodness and the kindness of people who will give you these gifts and will try to show by these gifts that they care and they love you.

So be generous-hearted and open-hearted. And if you open up the box and it’s an English soccer ball, find a child and he will be delighted to have it for his very own.

Christmas is here. Christmas is the giver’s feast.

Why the giver’s feast?

Because God is a giver not a taker. Jesus is a giver not a taker. Mary says, “Yes!” and gives her whole life. Joseph says, “Yes!” and takes her into his house.

And the whole world celebrates all these givers. No money, no gain, nothing but the simple gift of themselves.

And with that, the whole world changes.



In this beautiful homily for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, Father Hanly looks at Mary’s decision to agree to be the Mother of the Lord.

Readings for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C

  • First Reading: Micah 5:1-4
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
  • Second Reading: Hebrews 10:5-10
  • Gospel: Luke 1:39-45


Written Homily

We know that Christmas is coming, because Mary goes in search of Elizabeth. And we know that what is the next great event in the history of that little family is they both will give birth. Two children: one, John the Baptist, and the other one, of course, Jesus the Messiah.

It is almost Christmas, and a child is about to be born to us. The Child will be the Son of Mary and the Son of God. He will be named Jesus and will be the gift of a loving Father offered to us on this first Christmas Day.

We reach out then with both hands and take this most precious gift into our own world, into our families, into our hearts, into our lives, with great gratitude, love and thanksgiving to God himself.

As the carol goes:

Hark now hear the angels sing
A new king born today.
And man will live forever more,
Because of Christmas Day

It has often puzzled me that God should choose the weak and needy, the helpless and poor, the day-to-day-ordinary people of this world, to effect his will, to be the instruments of his concern for a world that hungers for his love, often without even realizing it.

This indeed is a great mystery. It is also God’s way of telling us how much he values our lives, lives that we ourselves often take for granted, and we often feel unworthy of such honor and attention that God himself should give us his only Son, to be our companion on the road of life.

Mary, then, becomes our Mother and our model. The unlettered, teenaged girl-child has been chosen to be the Mother of the Messiah, the Christ, savior of the world.

Mary is chosen, but not overjoyed. In fact, she is frightened and shrinks back from the Angel’s words. She knows her limitations, and she also knows that to say “yes” to his request her whole life will be changed, so much so that there will be no room left to have a life of her own. She has been asked to give herself totally and completely for the little child of Bethlehem.

And yet she answers the Angel’s request in all humility, driving back her fears with a childlike faith in God: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

And so it happens that the child takes shape in Mary’s womb. And wonder of wonders, the child to be born will be flesh of Mary’s flesh, blood of her blood. He will see with Mary’s eyes, touch with her hands, and love with her heart, and even his pains and sorrows, his laughter and tears, will flow from Mary’s eyes and Mary’s heart. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” And the Child’s name is Jesus.

Thirty years later, the words of Jesus to his Father from the cross: “Father, not mine, but thy will be done,” will echo his Mother’s reply to the Angel this day: “Let it be done to me according to thy word.” Like Mother, like Son!

Mary’s life once vowed and given will never be taken back. Mary’s faith and trust in God has made the incarnation possible. God was asking her to surrender her life in love. And Mary gave it and continues to give it, to you and to me, that we might pass it on to one another.

Let this Christmas, then, touch your hearts, minds and souls.

God, our Father, asks only this of us: To love each other as he has loved us and continues to love us as we continue to love him.

And this is what can change the world.

FAQ for Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

When is 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, in 2024?22nd December 2024
What is the title of Father Hanly’s homily for Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C?"Christmas: The Giver’s Feast" and "Mary"
What is the next homily by Father Hanly in this Liturgical Cycle?
Midnight Mass for Christmas, Year C
Who was Father Hanly?Father Denis J. Hanly was a Maryknoll Missionary
How can we find other homilies by Father Hanly?By Liturgical Calendar or by topic or by title

Information about Father Hanly’s homilies for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

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If you would like to use our transcript of this sermon (updated 2023), please contact us for permission.

Father Hanly's sermon for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, "Christmas: The Giver’s Feast" was delivered on 20th December 2009. Father Hanly's sermon for 4th Sunday of Advent, Year C, "Mary" was delivered on 23rd December 2012. It is sometimes hard to accurately transcribe Father Hanly's reflections, so please let us know if you think we have made a mistake in any of our transcripts, and let us have your suggestions.

We hope that Father Hanly’s homilies, always kind, always wise, always full of love, will restore you to peace and harmony through a new understanding of what is important in this world. We believe these homilies are inspiring for everyone, not only for Roman Catholics or other Christians.

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