Sunday, 18 December 2011
4th Sunday of Advent, Year B, Shaftesbury
Lk 1:26-38; 2 Sam 7:1-5.8-12.14.16
We’re now in the final stretch before Christmas –just one week to go. Some of us have already sent all our Christmas cards, and some of us haven’t. Some of us have already bought our presents, and some of us haven’t.
But, as it won’t surprise you to hear me say, none of these things are what Christmas is truly about.
Today, the final Sunday of Advent, the Church always turns to thoughts to Our Lady, each year with a different aspect of the Christmas narrative that involves her in a key moment. And the Church turns our thoughts to Our Lady in order that she might prepare us for Christmas, and I want to focus on two things we see in her that are important for us to imitate: her obedience, and her listening.
In our first reading we heard about the Ark of the Covenant, and how King David planned to build a fitting dwelling place for the Ark. King David, however, was told that he was not worthy to build the dwelling place for the Lord. That can stand as a sign for us that we also need to be properly fit if we are to be, ourselves, a dwelling place for the Lord at Christmas, if He is to come to us. Jesus wants to come to everybody Christmas, but not everybody seeks to make Him welcome.
The person, above all, who is placed before us as the image of being ready for the coming of the Lord is Our Lady. One of the titles that is given to Our Lady is that she is the "Ark of the Covenant", she is the place where He comes to dwell.
If we look at how the Blessed Virgin responded to what the Archangel Gabriel told her, there are two things we see. We see her being attentive to what the angel said i.e. we see her listening. We also see her being obedient, "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me”(Lk 1:38). If we imitate these two virtues ourselves we will likewise enable the Lord to come to us this Christmas.
If we consider this particularly in a family setting, it is very easy for family gatherings to be occasions where there is a continual conflict of wills. I want this, I want that, he wants something else, and she wants something else again.
Our Lady was fit to have the Lord come to her because she bowed her will to that of the Lord. We, similarly, need to bow our will to that of the Lord, and most of the time that is manifested by bowing my will, surrendering my preference, to that of what other people would prefer. This is a simple fact of living out love, living out the love that involves the Lord’s coming. And so if we would be ready for Christmas then we need to be getting into the habit of compromising, and not being too attached to our own preferences.
But we can only surrender our will, we can only surrender our preferences to others, we can only do this if we have first HEARD what other people's preferences are. And so we need to listen, just as the Blessed Virgin listened to the angel. For ourselves, that listening doesn't just mean not talking, it needs to also involve being attentive enough to others to see what they are thinking what they are wanting. And amid the rush of Christmas activity that can take an effort –but its essential if Christmas is to be happy, if it to be what Christmas is truly about.
So, if we want to get ready for Christmas, if we want our hearts and our lives to be fit dwellings for the Lord, then let us imitate the one to whom the Lord came most completely, let us imitate Our Lady, let us listen as she listened, and having heard, let us obey.