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The Fourth Sunday in Advent – Christmas Eve

Readings: 2 Sam. 7:1–11, 16, Song of Mary, Rom. 16:25–27 & Lk. 1:26-38.

These past weeks of Advent have been a period of preparation for us. A time for us to reflect on our faith, and our own personal relationship with God, as we check our spiritual preparedness for the Second Coming of Christ. Each of the four Sundays of Advent has reminded us of the people who prepared for the coming of the Jewish Messiah (who we now know was Jesus Christ).

The First Sunday of Advent was ‘The Patriarchs’, in particular Abraham, our father in faith, and David, the ancestor in whose city Jesus was born. On the Second Sunday it was ‘The Prophets’, especially Isaiah, who foretold the birth of the Messiah. Last week, on the Third Sunday, we focused on John the Baptist, who proclaimed Jesus as Saviour, and testified to him in the face of questioning by the Jewish religious leaders. And today, on this penultimate Sunday in Advent, before the celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas Day, we are especially interested in Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This morning’s gospel passage, from the Gospel of Luke, tells us a little bit about Mary’s own preparation for the birth of Christ. The opening verse of the passage tells us that:

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth”.

The “sixth month” is a reference to the sixth month of the pregnancy of Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, and cousin of Mary, who was pregnant with John the Baptist. The next verse tells us that Mary was a virgin, and that she was engaged to Joseph, who we hear was a descendant of King David.

Luke tells us that Gabriel greeted Mary by saying to her:

“Rejoice, she who has been favouReadings: 2 Sam. 7:1–11, 16, Song of Mary, Rom. 16:25–27 & Lk. 1:26-38.red”,

which is a clear statement that Mary was to be a recipient of God’s grace. Gabriel delivered his message that Mary was to become pregnant with Jesus, who would be the Son of God. In answer to her question:

“How will this be, since I do not know a man?”

(meaning that she was not sexual activity), Mary learned that her pregnancy was to be a divine one. She was to conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit. To perhaps overcome any doubt that might have been in Mary’s mind, about how this could happen, Gabriel then told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, who was elderly and thought to be incapable of having children, was herself six months pregnant. Gabriel said to Mary:

“Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Mary’s response to, what must have been an overwhelming and incomprehensible revelation from the angel Gabriel was a positive one. In a manner reminiscent of Abraham, Mary willingly accepted what God was asking her to do, basically saying to Gabriel, that she was God’s servant, and as God’s servant, it was not her place to question God’s will, but to do it.

Contrast this with the attitude of King David in our reading from the Second Book of Samuel. After many years of fighting wars, David had finally secured peace for Israel, and was living very comfortably in his impressive palace. But he felt guilty that the ark of the covenant, which was the symbolic throne of God, was still being kept in a tent. So David told the prophet Nathan that he intended to build a more appropriate dwelling in which for the ark to reside.

Nathan received a vision from God, which was more or less along the lines of “who does David think he is?”, that God needed David to build something for him! After all, God was the one who took David from the fields where he was tending sheep, and made him king over all the people of Israel. God defeated all of David’s enemies, and it was God who would make David’s name great in history.

David’s intentions, in wanting to build something more prestigious in which to house the ark of the covenant, were well meaning, but it was his desire to do this, not God’s, which was the problem. Mary, on the other hand, recognised that she was God’s servant, and that she was there to do God’s will, not her own.

I want to leave with you that thought on this final Sunday of preparation in Advent, and on the eve of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. As you have reflected during Advent, on your spiritual preparedness for the second coming of Christ, how much of what you have discerned, might be your own desire, perhaps your will, and how much is truly God’s will for you?

The Lord be with you.

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