We are close to the day we have been waiting for. Despite the agitations in the final preparations let’s take care not to short-circuit ourselves directly to Christmas, thus, detouring the message of the fourth week of advent. Let’s not fall into such temptation, rather, we profit of this fourth week, compressed to a single day, to do the necessary final touches. In particular, let our preparations be permeated by the faith like that of Mary.
Bible readings 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 Psalm 89: 2-5, 27, and 29 Romans 16: 25-27 Luc 1: 26-38
Not a report but witness of faith
As we approach Christmas the gospel gives us the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. There’s no need loosing ourselves in details; we are not dealing with journalistic report. Here we have the witness of faith regarding the interaction of God with his people. Besides, we are not doing history, in the sense of simple discourse about past event; rather, we open ourselves to respond in faith to God who’s still acting in the world and in our lives today. We can emulate what others did to open themselves to God’s grace –Mary is the example of the day!
Mary, model of advent faith
The message that the angel Gabriel brings upsets the dreams and the plans Mary as a young girl. Not only is she troubled but she also inhabited by well founded questions which seem to have no definte answers. Nevertheless, even when things are not as clear as black and white Mary remains trusting. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” That’s her response –of faith. That may beg a question, but what’s faith?
It’s abandoning oneself to God, giving him the hand –I choose you, lead me. Show me the way and I shall walk it.
Faith challenges our self-importance that feeds on the illusion that we are masters of our lives when we make elaborate previsions. Indeed, and by all means, we should take care to plan for our lives. However, that does not mean closing onto ourselves in a narcissitic way. In the attitude of faith there’s room for trust in God, as Alison Krauss sings:
"I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I know who holds tomorrow."
Precisely, Mary wasn’t padlocked onto her plans; even when she couldn’t understand she counted on the word announced to her. That’s the fruit of humility –you give importance to listening.
But others knew too much
Not everyone had a response of faith like Mary. In fact, it’s the entire people who awaited the messiah, yet, some persons, because they knew too much, just couldn’t open themselves to God’s action when it was different from their ideas.
A little, fragile baby lying in the manger in evident misery was simply imaginable. That’s how experts, religious scholars, remained in the cold of incredulity. It’s only the little people, the shepherds, with no pretention of grandeur who recognised the daybreak and, thus, rejoiced in it.
And so, what’s my attitude this advent?
For weeks, we have been preparing for the coming of the messiah. The question to ask oneself is this: what have I been doing? Have I been moulding and fixing my ideas about how God should act in the world and in my life?
Well, the Advent message has been turning on two hinges: the annonce of what God is offering and my response to such offer. My response is not so much about what I can do for God; but if I can only allow him to act in my life. It’s too simple, and that’s where the problem lies.
Our tendancy is to be in command and to appear powerful; and that may block us from receiving. Isn’t that the temptation of David in the first reading?
David is well settled as king and he has everything at his command. Building a magnificent temple will not only be an act of devotion but also an expression of supremacy. So he wants to do something for God for he thinks he can do something for him –building a house for God. But God reminds him gently, the other way round: it’s God who will secure David’s house. Can David, at the peak of his glory, understand and swallow this truth that he remains, no matter the heights he’s attained, at the receiving end?
At this Christmas it’s not the big, decorated cathedrals that God expects from us, but hearts that are ready to receive him. That can happen only in the attitude of faith, like that of Mary: I’m the servant of the Lord, let your word be accomplished in me.
Final touches of Advent
You may have had a big idea, like David –well, perhaps, it’s not necessary for now. Or you may be agitated about the approaching feast: the gifts to give, the meals to prepare, and about pleasing your guests…. Yes, you have your hands full. Surely, take a good care of that. It’s a sign that you attach great importance to Christmas. But if you can just show a little more care not to forget one little thing.
In the little time you have, if you can sit down, even half a minute, your hands open and say: come Emmanuel –the door of my heart is open for you.
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