24 Dec 2023 – 4th Sunday of Advent

24 Dec 2023 – 4th Sunday of Advent

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16

David is promised a “house” or dynasty

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”; Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”;

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: “Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”;

Responsorial: Psalm 88: 2-5, 27, 29

R./: For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.

I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord;
through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth.
Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever,
that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. (R./)

‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant;
I will establish your dynasty for ever
and set up your throne through all ages.’ (R./)

He will say to me: ‘You are my father,
my God, the rock who saves me.’
I will keep my love for him always;
for him my covenant shall endure. .(R./)

2nd Reading: Romans 16:25-27

Praise of the God whose salvation is revealed in Jesus Christ. This good news must be spread everywhere

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith-to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

The annunciation to our Lady, and her total Yes to God

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.


Choosing that special person

If you were to ask a married couple how they came to fall in love, or asked two good friends how they came to be friends, they may have difficulty answering and might say something like, “It just happened.” In one sense that may be true. In another sense it didn’t just happen. If two people are in a significant relationship with each other, be it marriage or friendship, it is because they have chosen each other. Why does someone choose one person rather than another as a spouse or friend? Why does someone choose to share his or her life with someone else? This is the mystery of human freedom, human preference. The more significant relationships cannot be forced. Love is freely bestowed by one person on another; the other freely receives what is bestowed and freely reciprocates, and a new relationship is born. There is a depth about all that.

If there is mystery in the relationship of one human being with another, even more so in the relationship between God and us. Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of his Son? Why this particular woman in this small village at this particular time of human history? It was the mysterious freedom and preference of God. Yet, there is a difference between God’s choice of Mary and the choice any one of us might make of another. When any one of us chooses another to love or to befriend, there is always, of necessity, an exclusive element to that choice. We choose this person rather than any number of others. Although we choose several people in the course of our lives in each case our choice of one excludes others.

God’s choice of Mary was not exclusive in that sense. In choosing Mary, he was choosing all of us. He chose Mary for all our sakes. God chose her to carry God’s Son on behalf of us all, because her future child was God’s gift to us all. That is why how Mary responded to God’s choice of her was not just a matter that concerned herself. It concerned us all. We all had a vested interest in how she responded. Her response would also be our response. In a sense we looked to her to make an appropriate response on behalf of us all to God’s choice of us.

The good news is that Mary did not let us down. Although initially disturbed and perplexed by the message, she eventually surrendered fully to that mysterious choice of God. Having been graced in this mysterious way, she responded wholeheartedly, “Let it be to me according to your word.” God freely chose her, and she in turn chose to place her freedom at God’s service. God’s choice of Mary, and her choice of God in response had the most wonderful consequences for all of us. She went on to sing, “the Almighty has done great things for me.” And because of her response to God’s choice, we can all sing, “the Almighty has done great things for us.” We have all been graced through Mary’s response to God’s choice of her.

Receiving the Grace of God

The readings today draw attention to God’s gracious initiative towards us. Their focus is not what we must do for God but rather what God wants to do for us. In the first reading David wanted to do something really big for God, no less than to build a beautiful temple as a house of worship. King David was an achiever who had accomplished a great deal. Yet, the prophet Nathan says that God did not want the king to build him anything. Rather, it was God who would do something for David; into the future David’s descendants would lead God’s people. David had to let go of his great plans and learn to allow God to grace him.

Receiving from others can be difficult for us. We like to be the givers, the organizers, the achievers. To let others give to us is to acknowledge our need, our dependence, our limitations, and that does not always come easy. Maybe we sense that to allow ourselves to be graced by others is to put ourselves under obligation to them and we are slow to do that. That reluctance to receive can carry over into our relationship with God.

The heart of the good news is that God is a gracious God who wants to give us all things. As Paul says in his epistle, ‘God who did not withhold his won Son, but gave him up for all of us, will also with him give us everything else!’ This is the special time of year when we allow God to be the God of abundant grace in our regard; it is a time when we come before him in our need and open ourselves to his gracious love and presence.


Surprised by God

A few days before Christmas a woman received a beautiful string of pearls in the mail. She could only guess who sent the gift. But when she didn’t find any message with the present she burst into tears. Three times she turned the packet inside out and upside down. But there was no note, no words, and no message, wrapped up with the gift. What she really wanted was a card that said ‘You mean a great deal to me. I love you!’ That message would have meant more to her than the pearls themselves. By contrast, when Gabriel, God’s messenger, greets Mary, the first thing Mary hears is words of love from God (words made slightly more explicit here): ‘Rejoice, Mary! The Lord is with you. God has chosen you. You are special, you are precious, and you are loved.’ God, then, doesn’t leave out the important words.

On hearing those words of God’s special love for her, Mary can only rejoice. But joy is not her only response. Here she is, a girl about fourteen, living quietly in an out-of-the way village of Galilee, far from the rich and famous and the movers and shakers of this world, and yet hearing those amazing and stunning words from God! ‘What is God up to?’ she wonders. The gospel could not be clearer when it says: ‘She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what the greeting could mean.’

The messenger of God reassures her: ‘Don’t be alarmed! Don’t be afraid, Mary! Listen to what I have to say! Of all women on earth, God has chosen you to be the Mother of the Saviour of the World!’ But Mary is a virgin and so she asks the perfectly obvious and reasonable question: ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ The messenger answers: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow.’

Mary doesn’t ask any other question. She doesn’t need to. She simply responds freely and deliberately to the God of surprises, the God who has picked her out for the greatest mission in the world: ‘I am the servant of the Lord,’ she says, ‘I say “yes” to God. I accept my part in God’s plans. Let what you have said be done to me.’ From that moment Mary conceives the child Jesus in her womb. From that moment ‘the Word of God became a human being and dwelt among us.’ St Augustine comments that Mary first conceives her child in her heart and only then does she conceive him in her body. Our Preface today makes the beautiful observation: ‘The virgin mother longed for him with love beyond all telling’, i.e. with indescribable love.

We are living in an age when many people find it difficult to make permanent commitments to others, commitments that require life-long love, fidelity, perseverance and endurance. So it’s particularly appropriate for us to wonder and marvel today at Mary’s total commitment to God, and to all the changes her pregnancy will bring to all her plans for the future. What a striking example she is, then, of living that motto for life, ‘Let go and let God.’ She teaches us to put our faith and trust in God at all times, but especially in difficult, demanding, and seemingly impossible situations. But she also teaches us to be people who bring Christ to others, just as Mary set out immediately to bring him to her elderly cousin, Elizabeth.

Year by year we are painfully aware of how much darkness there is in our world as well as how much light. In the rituals we have watched on TV for people killed or maimed in particular catastrophes, we have noticed that grieving people always light candles of remembrance. Those small pieces of self-consuming wax and flame say that the light in our world is stronger than the darkness. That is the message too of the lighting of the four candles today of our Advent wreath. Those candles will burn out, but our commitment as his followers to be the light of Christ in the darkness of insensitivity and indifference, ignorance and malice, should never burn out or never be put out.

During the rest of our Eucharist, we can renew our commitment to be that Light of Christ that drives out the darkness of evil, and especially for those for whom Christmas is more a time of darkness, sadness, depression and desperation than an experience of light, joy, love and peace. I’m thinking particularly of people who are homeless, separated, bereaved, friendless, or abused. At this time of Advent and Christmas they especially need our commitment to be the light and love of Christ to them. May we, like God, surprise and encourage them with our loving words and loving care!

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    We are the ones our baby Jesus is longing for!!

    Our God is light, He is clothed in light and dwells in unapproachable light – 1 John 1:5 says “God is clothed in light. In Him there is no darkness at all”. 1 Timothy 6:16 says, “He dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see”.

    People who saw the bomb blast at Hiroshima were temporarily blinded because of the powerful light emerging from the bomb blast (We read about the young girl, Sadako Sasaki). But the light of God is much more powerful. We cannot see the light of our God in Heaven with our human eyes. He dwells in this approchable light. While our Lord Jesus sojourned on earth, during Transformation, His face shone brightly like the sun. The Apostle Peter couldn’t look at the glowing face of our Lord Jesus and bowed down to the ground.

    What made our God Jesus drop His garment of light in Heaven and come to earth?
    He came to clean us from our sins and clothe us with garment of righteousness in Heaven.

    God didn’t expect all of us to be saints without committing any sin. So He already decided to forgive us. Sin keeps peace and joy away from us. Sin has to be paid for, but we don’t have to pay, since our Lord Jesus has already paid for our sins. When will the payment made by our Lord Jesus be effective in our life?

    Let us consider our friend Zaccheus in the Bible. He had everything needed for his world life, including richness and good health. But he couldn’t find peace and joy. Zaccheus truly repented in his heart and asked for forgiveness in his heart. God Jesus heard the secret petition of his heart and forgave all his sins. Then he became overjoyed and found the peace He had been longing for.
    We may also be in the same status – with all our riches, good health, good status we are not able to find happiness. Because somewhere there is some sin that is weighing us down. But do not worry. Our baby Jesus in the manger is our God who is waiting to forgive all our sins. Were all three wise men and the shepherds without any sin? Did He put a board in His house, “Sinners do not enter, Saint are only allowed”? He came in search of sinners, to forgive us and make us lead a good life.

    A truly repentant sinner satisfies the longing of the heart of baby Jesus.

    Nowadays there are special shops for the newborns. There are separate dresses for the just born or a few days or weeks or months old. But when our baby Jesus was born, He did not have new dresses to wear. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Our God, creator of the whole world is roped with the garment of Glory in Heaven.He was not able to wear even the baby clothes which our Mamma Mary had lovingly knitted for Him, because they were not able to bring them through the long journey to Bethlehem.

    Why did God come down as a poor little baby?
    Some theories confirm that what our Bible says is true – Job said in 26:7 that earth hangs on nothing. So how does earth still stay without falling down? The answer is in Hebrews 1:3 -> God sustains everything by His powerful word. He is clothed with majesty, strength and might.

    The baby Jesus lying down in the manger is our powerful God who sustains everything by His word. Let us surrender whatever we have like the shepherds. He will bless us with whatever we can handle.

    Our baby Jesus cried and shivered due to the cold. The body heat from the Buffaloes was the only heater available for Him. The bed of hay was the only cradle for Him. The stinking smell of the manger was the only perfume available for Him. We decorate our Nativity sets with huge grandeur. But all it was, was a dirty room without a door. All that our poor carpenter, St. Joseph could provide was all that our baby Jesus had.

    Why did our Great God come down as a helpless child?
    It was due to His love for us. Love is both a strength and weakness. He left His Almighty strength in Heaven and came down as a weak human person all because of His untiring love for us. He wants to dwell for us, pay for all our sins through His sufferings and finally take us to Heaven to dwell with Him.

    The baby who is lying down in the manger clothed in swaddling clothes is clothed in power and majesty in Heaven. Surrender all your problems to Him. He has come down from Heaven just for us.

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