May the last few days building up to Christmas not become too hectic doing for others … save time for you and the Babe whose birth we will celebrate on Friday!
In this Gospel reading Mary, the girl-mother goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who, in advanced age, is also with child. She traveled approximately 103 miles over not the kindest terrain. It sounds like perhaps Elizabeth learned of Mary’s approaching arrival. Whether or not, Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles that they, and their unborn children, will play in God’s plan for salvation
Thus, it is appropriate in this season of Advent that we consider the role of Mary. Mary is the one who believed that God’s word to her would be fulfilled. Mary shows us “blind” faith, deep trust and an abiding peace. She ask only, how can this be – listens to the angel’s reply …. nods her head and sets off across the hill country to be midwife to her cousin. Her faith enabled her to recognize the work of God in her people’s history and in her own life. Her openness to God allowed God to work through her so that salvation might come to everyone: those who had gone before her and all of us who come after.
Martin Luther King, Jr once described faith as: ”taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole stair case.” This is Mary … the angel sent by God said it can happen, so who am I to question God? At this stage, she has no idea what is in store but she has said her Yes and she will be faithful to it. May we always be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation.
A few years ago there was a TV ad that ended with the question: Have you said ‘Yes’ yet?” It is a question that tomorrow’s Mass are asking each one of us. Have we made the most important preparation of all? Yes to the Father, Yes to Jesus, Yes to all that we will experience in the coming year, Yes to every call that God makes and will make of us? We learn from Mary, and her son Jesus, how to say an unqualified, unconditional and unreserved YES! That’s where the real joy and happiness of Christmas lies. All the rest is (so to speak) tinsel on the tree of our lives!
As Advent time winds down it is almost impossible not to be sucked into celebrating the feast before it occurs. We struggle to remain grounded in the spirit of Advent. Like children we just can’t wait for the big birthday party. It’s as though even the most beautiful liturgies and symbols fail to communicate, because God is so much greater than all our frail efforts. But, God doesn’t need our feeble attempts in order to communicate with astonishing clarity. If we look and listen closely – like we look forward to the rising sun each morning from the breakfast table – we remember God is greater than any Advent wreath. When the rich melodies of the O Antiphons course through us we are reminded we do indeed stand on holy ground.
On Monday we will mark the shortest day of the year. Isn’t it strange that we refer to it as “shortest day” not the longest night? The light of day gradually increases and we witness the sunrise earlier and earlier each day.
And, the Advent wreath’s purple candles increase until all four give light to our darkness and hinting at the more brilliant light that God promised: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” God hasn’t forgotten or given up on us. How fitting to have had the Penitential Service this past week … Any debt or guilt we may have felt or imagined is erased: the jail door sprung. The prison gate opens as wide as a proverbial smiley face! The light within us is even more dazzling than you can imagine!
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer we hear a message of hope and reassurance:
“Just when everything is bearing down on us to such an extent that we can scarcely withstand it, the Christmas message comes to tell us that all our ideas are wrong, and that what we take to be evil and dark is really good and light because it comes from God. Our eyes are at fault, that is all. God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us; whatever others may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.”
Let’s not be counted among the people who miss out on the gift that God sent to them. You see, God’s Gift didn’t come in a beautifully wrapped package. God sent Jesus, His only Son, as His gift to us. Jesus’ mother was young virgin…his earthly father was a poor carpenter…he was not born in a beautiful palace…he was born in a manger. Not a very pretty package, is it? But do you know what? It was the greatest gift the world has ever known. It was the gift of salvation and it had your name on it.
Our prayer bubbles forth in the words of Psalm 40 (which we prayed in Noon Prayer yesterday) “O God, your wonders and designs are beyond imagining; you have no equal. Should I proclaim your blessings, they are more that I can tell!”