Sunday, 20 December 2015

4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

Lk 1:39-44
This year my Advent has been even more stressed than usual: the ever-lengthening list of tasks of Christmas presents, Christmas cards, sermons to write, prayers to compose, and so on.
Maybe your Advent has been like mine, or maybe its been delightfully calm.
Either way, we’re now in the final stretch, and the figure that the Church always puts before us this final Sunday before Christmas, the person who we are told is MOST suited to prepare us for Christmas, is His Blessed Mother, Mary.

This year, Year C, we heard the account of the Visitation, about how Our Lady went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Both were pregnant. Both had been blessed with pregnancy in unusual circumstances, and their two children (the Lord Jesus, and St John the Baptist who was to prepare the way for Him) would live lives with numerous unusual signs.

Let us think about how our Lady acted in all of this, because she is a great role model for Christmas.
In the verses before the text we heard, the Archangel Gabriel has just appeared to her and asked her to be the Mother of God.
To put it lightly, that was a pretty big task she’d been given.
A pretty big “errand” on her pre-Christmas to-do list.
Now, I don’t know about you, when I have what seems like a really important task, be it writing the Christmas sermon, or buying the bird for Christmas lunch, I get very FOCUSSED -and woe betide anyone who gets in my way!
Our Lady, however, did the opposite. Rather than focus on herself, her pregnancy, her health. She thought, instead, about her cousin Elizabeth, who she had just heard was 6 months more pregnant than she was. And so, as we heard, she “set out and went as quickly as she could to” (Lk 1:39) assist her.
She not just went, but went “as quickly as she could”.

And there were two results:
One, was the benefit for Elizabeth, of support during her birth.
The other was joy. We heard the joyful encounter between the two women in that text. We didn’t hear the verses afterwards, of Our Lady filled herself with joy, singing God’s praises in the Magnificat.
Love bears fruit in Joy.
Our Lady loved; she knew joy in her heart.
Our Lady thought of others, and she didn’t feel burdened but had the joy that comes from love.

Let us apply this to ourselves. Over the next few days most of us will have many occasions when we can choose between rushing on our SO-IMPORTANT task, barging past people in the family, trampling others in the supermarket, etc,
or, instead, we can do that same task with an AWARENESS of others around us,
a consideration for their NEEDS,
and remembering the BIG picture of the celebration of divine and human love that Christmas is about.

And if we do that, then the two results that came to Our Lady will come to us too:
Our behaviour will be of benefit to others, and to their celebration of Christmas;
And, in loving others in a way that focuses on PEOPLE to be loved,
rather than on TASKS to be achieved,
we will feel the weight of the task more LIGHTLY,
and the joy that comes with love should be ours too.

All of this can be more easily said than done! So, let’s not just turn to Our Lady as role model, let’s turn to her with our prayers. Let’s ask our heavenly Mother, who brought the Son of God into this world 2000 years ago, that her prayers will bring Him into our hearts this Christmas too.

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