Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B

There is a very clear link running through all the readings this Sunday and that is God’s promise to David that his lineage will produce an heir that will rule forever in the dim and distant future. This prophecy was 600 years in the fulfilment. All of Israel waited for a Messiah and yearned for the promised liberator and king to rule all nations from Israel. God was faithful to His promise to David beyond all imagining, that ‘I will be father to him and he a son to me’, and so in the fullness of time ‘God sent his Son born of a woman’ (Galatians). This is the great mystery hidden for the ages that St Paul speaks about in the epistle today.

This prophecy begins to be fulfilled in the ‘yes’ of Mary, who is aware of the prophecy, and that it is to be her son that will be the fulfilment of all the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a nation crying out for liberty. Mary is the mother of Israel’s liberation. The familiar beautiful scene which we now call the Annunciation is worth pondering. The angel goes into Mary’s house – there is a sense of heaven meeting earth – of a heavenly being ‘reduced’ as it were to the simple motion of physically walking into Mary’s home and extending a formal greeting like any visitor would. Gabriel’s news and invitation would change Mary’s life forever, and it was the pivotal point in our salvation. This scene is recalled millions of times each day in every Hail Mary, in the first Joyful Mystery, in every Angelus and in every recitation of the Creed, when ‘he was made man’ (incarnatus est).

Now we must place our minds and our lives in the mind, if we can, of the teenage girl Mary, who was being asked something so monumental it has changed the world. God was asking her to be the Mother of His Son – and it is mind-blowing for our tiny minds to imagine what God was actually proposing to Mary in this unique, unrepeatable event which we call the Incarnation.

Mary’s ‘Yes’, it must be recalled, was one of extraordinary blind faith, trust and profound love. She could not refuse, it was not in her make-up to refuse God anything. And yet in that silent moment when she gave her free consent, she conceived Jesus in her womb, and she became a mother. And ringing in her ears as she contemplated this change in her own state in life and the beginning of the embryonic life of her son, must have been Gabriel’s words: ‘nothing is impossible to God.’

Yet after the 600 year promise to Israel it would be another 9 months before Mary would set eyes on Him, and another 30 years before His voice would be heard by all the nation. God’s plan slowly unfolds.

As we ponder this scene so familiar to us, we must ask ourselves why this scene is presented to us as the last Sunday Gospel before the annual commemoration of the birth of Christ?

The words of the angel are meant for us too: ‘do not be afraid!’ ‘Listen’, ‘the Lord is with you’, and ‘nothing is impossible to God’.

• What was an ‘annunciation’ moment for you?
• What is God asking of you?
• God keeps His word, do I trust Him?
• God keeps His promises, do I?
• What am I afraid of?
• To what does God want me to listen? And to listen to the promptings of my angel, and my conscience?
• What is so ‘impossible’ for me that is possible to God?
• Does God want me to exercise patience because of His seeming slowness to act?
• Do I believe God wants to intervene in my life, and do I let Him enter in?
• What is God asking me to do as we prepare for his coming? What change(s) are required of me? What challenges, what new responsibilities lie ahead of me? Where is God leading me? To whom does God want me to reach out, as Mary did to her cousin Elizabeth?

It is a wonderful feeling to be the bearer of good news, even of something monumental and life-changing, something with a definite ‘before’ and ‘after’ moment, or day, that we can all mark in our lives. Today’;s Gosepl was Mary’s ‘before/after’ moment.

This long-expected news of Israel’s liberation was good news indeed, the best news ever, and Mary was the first to hear it. Israel was - to use familiar terms today, in a spiritual recession, in need of a spiritual bail-out, in need of having its debt of sin paid in full.
Jesus, the longer-for Messiah, Saviour and King, is ours too, for the whole world, and for each person. We will not truly ‘get’ Christmas until at last we come to realise that Jesus did not ‘merely’ save the world, He saved you, and He saved me.

‘Come Lord Jesus’.

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