December 24, 2023: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. “But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
This Liturgical Year, with the Fourth Sunday of Advent falling on December 24 and the Vigil of Christmas and Day of Christmas following within a few short hours, we might experience a sense of loss about not having enough time to savor the impact of this Gospel in our lives. Fortunately, we have multiple occasions throughout the Church Year when this very familiar passage from Luke is used in Liturgy. Reading this particular passage this year, one aspect that resonated with me were the words spoken by the Angel Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
How might those words affect us as we anticipate the Nativity of the Christ? Perhaps, like Mary, we can contemplate and believe in the meaning of God is with you and acknowledge that, as people of faith, God is with each one of us. Her courage and faith allowed God to enter humanity and transform and restore our world. We also can signify our willingness to bear Jesus within our very selves, to act as Christ’s hands and feet in our world in ways both great and small. Our lives can be a testimony to who Jesus is in our lives through the thousand ordinary ways and people he is present to us and alive in us and around us today.
Can we say yes, and let that yes change our lives and our world in small but necessary ways? Most of the world missed the birth of Jesus because it took place in what the world saw as an ordinary place among ordinary people. But how wrong the world was. If we will savor that the mystery and the wonder of God with us are in the very ordinary and every day events of our lives we will be advancing the kin-dom of God of which there will be no end.
Spend time reading and/or listening to Denise Levertov’s poem “Annunciation.” It can be accessed here.
What insights did you gain from Levertov’s piece and from the commentary provided? At this point in your Advent journey, how do you respond?