Dear Followers of the Messiah,
This extremely short Fourth Week of Advent is a challenge for our reflection since it falls on Christmas Eve morning. It will be overlooked by many of us. Yet, it provides for us spiritual food and hope as we are quickly led into the Christmas Season.
In Luke’s gospel we hear of the Annunciation of Mary. The message of this text is completely different from the gospels of the first three weeks of Advent. The challenges of the ancient prophets of John the Baptist and Isaiah, the finger pointing into the direction of God, the stirring up of our imaginations about what God can do for us, the waiting and watchfulness, is all being replaced with a quiet reality that God is inviting Mary to become the Mother of Jesus. Gabriel, an angel, is the messenger of such news of beauty and justice. Gabriel is also telling Mary not to be afraid! This message of fearlessness is the place in which we need to land, the message that we all need to take to heart before we celebrate Christmas.
“Do not be afraid…” is also a message for us to end the Advent season. God is at work in every heart. The Holy Spirit is shaping our families, our homelands and our workplaces. God is revealing love in ways in which we may not initially understand, just like the love that was revealed to Mary. Our first reaction to change is usually fear. Imagine how Mary’s life was changed! We fear anything that will rattle us out of our usual ways of seeing the world or that will challenge us to face issues among us that we are blind to, or that we will have to give more to God and to our neighbor than we are willing to give.
The summation of the Advent season is that God is at work among us, and that love can replace fear. Hope can satisfy even the bitterest heart. Beauty can transform our tragedies. Mercy can mend the most fragile heart. The Holy Spirit can lead the loneliest people into a new relationship that can set us all free. What we have been waiting for in these Advent days is to be released from all the fear in our lives that keep us from truly living. This is God’s action within us, exactly as it was in the life of Mary.
So we come to the conclusion of Advent and find our lives immersed in the Incarnation, the promise of Jesus born in our lives. Thank you for your lives of faith. Thank you for all the ways you support our community with love and kindness and as ministers of Eucharist to the sick, as educators of our youth, as believers that faith changes us. Merry Christmas! Thank you for your lives of prayer and service. I am so grateful for this holy place, the three churches we call home.
Peace and all good in Christ Jesus,