The Advent readings bring together a marvelous cast of characters from Prophets, to the forerunner of the Messiah, and to the Mother of Christ. Add to those the Lord himself, and the historical span covers some eight hundred years or so. The atmosphere triumphs with expectation and joy of Messianic promises.
The prophecy of 2 Sam 7 provides a foundation of the hope for great leaders like David who would succeed their forefather on the throne of Judah and guide the nation through time. Though David himself would not realize his desire to build a temple in Jerusalem, he was the forebearer of a dynasty that would build the temple and continue the covenant religion of Yahweh. (2 Sam 7:1-17) In our second reading Paul tells us that according to his preaching and the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ the obedience of faith came about. The revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages was foretold through the prophets to all people. Then Paul’s preaching to the Gentiles made Christ known to them also, and thus gave glory to the only wise God to whom glory is due. (Rom 16:26-27)
This brings us by the beautiful progression of salvation history to our Gospel reading. Here we focus on the annunciation of the birth of Jesus and the sign to Mary that authenticates her own experience. The sign was the conception of John the Baptist who was announced in the Benedictus of Zachariah as the Prophet of the Most High who would go before the Lord to prepare his way. (Lk 1:76) On the strength of that information Mary accepted the call of the Lord to her role as the Mother of Jesus.
Without a doubt, the implications of that were not apparent to Mary at the time. Later, Simeon’s prophecy would come true, but at the time of the annunciation Mary walked in faith. (Lk 2:33-35) She treasured all those revelations and pondered them in her heart. (lk 2:19)
In those events the Holy Spirit was very active. He came upon Mary and Elizabeth. He came upon Zechariah, and Simeon, and Anna. So, if the first Christmas story seems remote in our day, we can reflect on the fact that through the Spirit it lives in all time and all places.
“Nothing is impossible with God.” (Lk 1:37) Every birth is special, but the birth of the Messiah is magnificently unique and special beyond any human expectation. This is a virgin birth, through the Holy Spirit, that gives salvation history its long awaited fulfillment. Here the turn of the era propels the Christian message forward to all time and all people. No wonder the angelic chorus praised God saying, “Glory to God in the highest heavens, and on earth peace and good will among people.” (Lk 2:14)
What does this all mean to us? If we think beyond the hustle and bustle of the season, we might ponder in our hearts the steadfast love of God in his absolute fidelity to his promises.
With the Psalmist we can return thanks to the Lord. “Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness to the assembly of the holy ones.” (Ps 89)
Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.