Homily (Sermon) - I love advent, the preparation, the expectation
The Readings for Sunday 23rd December 2012 or Forth Sunday of Advent Year C:
Old Micah 5:1-4
Psalm 79:2-3, 15-16, 18-19 Rv4
New Hebrews 10:5-10
Gospel Luke 1:39-44
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]
I love advent, the preparation, the expectation, putting up the decorations, Christmas music on the radio. And one of my favourite pieces of Chirstmas music is Beethoven's Ode to Joy, part of his ninth symphony. It's an amazing piece of music, uplifting and full of wonder.
It's all the more amazing when you think where it came from. When Beethoven wrote it towards the end of his life, he was completely deaf. He never even heard the music himself.
Something so wonderful, from such an unexpected place.
That, on so many levels, is the message we are given in today's readings. The problem is that we don't see things as unexpected any more, we are far too used to hearing these stories, these miracles, this good news. We are all probably very aware of the town called Nazareth, it's the town where Jesus grew up. It's where Mary and Joseph lived. It's very important to us, so we think of it as an important place. But 2009 years ago it was thought of by most people as nothing. The back of beyond.
In our first reading today, the Lord, speaking through the profit Micah, says “the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel.” It was from Judah, in the back water town of Nazareth, in that unexpected place that God choose Mary to bear his Son.
This brings us to Mary, mother of God, Mary mother of the Church, Mary Arc of the Covenant, Mary most blessed of all women, Mary Queen of Heaven. The Mary we think of, is the Mary who carried Jesus in her womb, who raised him, who stood at the foot of his cross, who was present at his empty tomb that glorious Sunday morning, who watched him ascend into heaven, who was present a the foundation of the church and was assumed into heaven by her son.
But it may be helpful for us, to think a little differently about Mary, particularly the Mary we heard about tonight. She is at the start of her journey, she's a young women, probably no more than 16 years old. From a quiet backwater town. The Mary we heard about tonight has only just said yes to God. In the verses directly before our reading she has been visited by the Angel Gabriel and told she will bear a son, her answer was our gospel acclamation, “I am the handmaiden of the Lord: let what you have said be done to me.” As the Angel leaves her, she sets out to visit Elizabeth, a journey of about 150 miles, it would have taken a week, maybe two. Plenty of time to think, to ponder, to pray.
What was Mary feeling on that journey? Joy, Fear, Love, Worry, Trust, Uncertainty, Faith, Anxiety, Amazement? Probably all of these, probably every emotion you can think of. What was she thinking? How were people going to react? What would Joseph say? What about her parents? Would they understand this was Gods will, or would they condemn her for being pregnant outside of marriage. A crime punishable by death by stoning.
When Mary said yes to the Angel she hadn't asked what was going to happen to her, would she be looked after? She had no idea. But she has still said yes. Many profits before her had argued with God. Moses asked God to send someone else, Gideon wanted a sign, Jonah just ran away, Isaiah said woe is me, Jeremiah claimed to be to young, Zechariah said that Elizabeth was to old. Mary just said yes. Was that without thought of the consequences? I doubt that, Mary proved many times she had wisdom, what we see in Mary, is such unusual and unexpected courage to do, no matter what, the will of God.
Mary's rush to see Elizabeth, is a rush to talk to the one person who would immediately understand. And what a welcome Mary receives. Elizabeth, and the miracle of John, her unborn son, recognised Mary as the mother of the Lord.
“Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”
Elizabeth has seen instantly that Mary had been filled, filled to overflowing, with the holy spirit. The joy of Elizabeth's reaction, must have been a relief to Mary, and her courageous and faithful Yes to the Lord, is transformed into pure spirit filled joy, as Mary responds with the Magnificat in the verses directly following today's gospel. Maybe you would like to read through the Magnificat tonight before going to sleep.
Mary is very much loved and respected by us for her role in our salvation. There are many prayers asking for her intercession on our behalf. But tonight we are called to remember Mary was once a young girl from nowhere who said yes when the Lord called her. Our Lords looks for workers in the most unusual places.
So, where will be the next unusual place the Lord will look for someone, who will be the next unexpected person the Lord will use. Will it be you ?
We to are called to do the Lords work, in attending mass tonight we are filled by the spirit, in listen to the word of God in tonight's gospel we are filled with the spirit, in receiving the Eucharist or a priestly blessing we are filled with the spirit. So filled with the joy of the holy spirit, are you ready to listen to the Lord, are you ready to say yes to the Lord.
I love Advent, its a time of preparation. What have you be preparing for?
About the Author - Deacon John Scanlon