December 23, 2007 Fourth Advent (RCL Year A) Mt 1: 18-25
The Fourth Advent Sunday is always for me of all the Sundays of the year Mary’s day. In our cycle of the lectionary, in Matthew’s gospel, and Joseph’s dream, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is God with us.” And I know we look to the Mother on this day, as she is great with child, and, as we might say, “pregnant with possibility.” Her courage, her openness, to say yes, “let it be unto me according to thy will,” the gentle word of all human history that will undo the damage begun by Adam and Eve in the Garden at the beginning place of the sacred story. At her word “yes,” the darkness begins to give way, the brokenness and hurt of all the generations of cosmic history are ready for grace and healing. God’s gentleness, kindness, and the restoration of our life and the renewal of all things begin to happen here and now: “the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel . . . God with us.”
Fourth Advent, and the calm before the storm. I remember how in the weeks and days before our kids were born Susy and I would find these moments when we would just pause and wonder at the miracle of it all. Terrifying and wonderful at the same time, really. So much that could go wrong, so much that could go right. Not just at birth, but on and on. Things we could know and expect, but so much more that would certainly unfold, hour by hour, year by year, which would be so important to us, and yet which at that moment were truly hidden deeply in the knowledge of God alone. We read the books about childrearing, spoke with our friends, remembered our own families, our parents and our sisters and brothers. But in the end, we couldn’t know much, because there wasn’t much to be known. Trying to imagine a piece of music before it has been composed, a painting before it has been painted. All we could do, we knew, was to love as much as we could possibly love, and be the best people we could be. Two steps forward, one back some times, for sure. But doing the best we could do. And the rest would be in God’s hands. We’d need to trust him.
So Mary, this morning. Brave. Willing to step forth in this new way, to answer the call, to give up what plans she may have had for herself. To grow into this new vision that God had for her. To receive this gift that would be full of such amazing joy and such amazing sorrow, as the years would unfold. She could only imagine, in these hours before her labor was to begin—she could only imagine the half of it. Not even that. The peaks and the valleys. The shadow of the Cross. The bright morning of the Empty Tomb. Yet with courage, determination, faithfulness, humility, she sets out. Joseph at her side.
Tomorrow evening we’ll be here again with her, and the sky will be growing dark, and they will be wending their way through the Judean hills towards Bethlehem, and the beginning of this new chapter of their story, this new chapter of our story.
Hail, Mary. Graceful one. The Lord is with thee. Gentle one. Courageous one. Girl who would be Mother of the future, beyond our understanding. Mother of us all. This Fourth Advent Sunday, as even now the 23rd of December and the Angel Chorus is rehearsing the celestial song. Even now the Shepherds heading out to the fields. The inn beginning to fill, and the innkeeper beginning to think about hanging the No Vacancy sign out front, before things get too crazy in there. Holy Mary. Blessed art thou among all women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God.