The Gospel for today’s Mass, of the fourth Sunday of Advent, has our final preparation for Christmas firmly in mind.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’
Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’
‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’
‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
In a sense the preparation for Christmas begins as we await Mary’s yes to God.
In another sense, as the Liturgy of the Word bears eloquent testimony, it begins long before in the history of Israel, chosen but failing short. God responds to human frailty – described so poignantly in the tale of Adam and Eve: our sin awakes a loving response in the Creator of all.
And still does. THE good news is not so much the birth of Jesus then, but the love of God in Jesus now – for each and every person, always, everywhere. We spoil so much and sometimes, as this week’s headlines demonstrate, do so in ways that shock and appall, even now after so long a history of shocking acts.
The Christian response is to counter terror and horror by love. Often we fail, and give into motives of fear and revenge. But love is what is needed and love is what is called for.
To Mary the angel says ‘Do not be afraid’, ‘Serve: love.’ To us the same is said.
Pray today that we – and not just you – will listen, and will serve God lovingly for Himself and in our neighbour, all of them!
Photograph of statue of the Annunication in the grounds of the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth. (c) 2013, Allen Morris.