An Advent reflection for the Fourth Sunday
|It’s the Fourth Sunday of Advent, and it might just feel like everything is about ready for Christmas, but in fact the story is just beginning and one of the central characters moves to centre stage: Mary, mother of Jesus.|
And so, the stage is set, ready for the perfect story of Christmas to begin. Except it’s not perfect at all.
|Reading – Luke 1.26-38|
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
by The Revd Canon Dr Sandra Millar
As you put all your decorations around the house and on the tree, do you find room for that one that you’ve kept for years, or that one the children made, all wonky and torn, yet so very precious? In my family, it’s a small musical plastic crib , well over 60 years old. The shepherds and wise men go round and round the little family in the stable. But the sheep have fallen off and a wise man keeps keeling over. We still display it, because although it’s broken, it’s full of memories.
As Christmas draws close, it might feel more than a bit broken. It might feel broken because you can’t travel to be with people, because you have no work and can’t provide generously; because your relationships have fractured under the strain of the last few months, or because those we love are just not with us any more.
The expectations that we pile on ourselves can make us feel that these next few days have to take us to an unrealistic perfection, so that it’s hard to admit that we might feel sad.
The story of Mary is not a perfect story. It is the story of a young unmarried woman, living in a small village, who will be criticised, will journey far from home and give birth in a stable. Her cousin, Elizabeth, has not had a perfect life either, for there has been the terrible pain of longing for years for a child that never came. It is to these two women that God speaks the promise of a future, of healing and of light in the darkness.
As we light the fourth candle of Advent today, we acknowledge that in the joy of Christmas preparation, there will also be brokenness, and that it is to the broken that God will speak the promise of new life. The words of the angels to Mary are just the beginning of the story, and the beginning of hope.
We have a sacred duty to care for our environment:
Creator of our common home,
You fill the earth and sea and sky with life
Forgive us our neglect of your creation
The choking waste of our pollution
The damage done by careless habits
And our indifference to future generations.
Help us to amend our lives
To refuse more plastic if we can’t reuse it
To lift our voice for lasting change
And to live well and gently on the earth
To the glory of your Son, the living Word
Through whom you made this fragile world.
Rt Revd Steven Croft