Fourth Sunday of Advent B

When I decided to become a priest, obviously I had to make some important choices.  To be honest with you, some of those choices are felt most keenly around Christmas. I would love to have a family of my own, but I guess that is what makes it a sacrifice.  Therein lies its power. I give up the idea of a family so that I can serve this family gathered here.  We never move forward without giving up something.

That does not mean that I have not added some corollaries to the rule of celibacy.  For instance, I have never changed a diaper.  I just figure that there should be some benefit to this lifestyle.  And secondly, although I have heard it is a powerful and life changing experience, I have never seen a live birth.  I am sure that it is beautiful and I am more than willing to take your word for it.

All that said, I am ready to give birth.  And not just any birth.  I am called, we are called, to be the Mother of God for we are to give birth to Jesus Christ.  St. Augustine knew this was the proper role of every disciple of Christ.  Meister Eckhart said in a beautiful phrase that we are mothers of God for God needs to be continually born into the world.  Even Jesus, when his mother and family came looking for him said his true mother and family are those who hear the word of God and keep it.   We must be the mothers of God because Jesus needs be made incarnate into the world.  We need to give birth to Christ so that he might touch others.  We need to bring forth a savior for a world so desperate for saving.

Of course there is no birth of Christ without an Annunciation.  Jesus would not be a reality in our lives if Mary had said, “No,” and Jesus will be not a reality in our world if we say, “No.”  Surely, the circumstances are not as colorful for our call from God as was Mary’s from the angel Gabriel (nor as frightening as it must have been to that young girl), but the elements are present in our call.  Is Mary full of grace?  So are we, for grace is simply the love and the action of Jesus Christ.  Grace is never absent in us; if only we could trust it more freely.  God has shot us through with divinity.  And why is Mary full of grace?  Because the Lord is with her.  And surely, this Emmanuel of whom we sing, God-with-us, is present in each of us.  Jesus Christ has chosen for his dwelling on this earth this time each one of us.  What unaccountable dignity we possess as the Temple of the Son of God?  Yet, without a birth, that grace and peace are shut away and does not transform the world the way it is meant to.  And finally, Mary’s miraculous pregnancy is brought about by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.  You have been baptized and many of you have been confirmed.  We are given the same Holy Spirit that moved Jesus in the world. We have been given everything necessary to succeed.

We might well hesitate.  It is not always easy to bring forth Christ, especially where he has not been invited.   Especially, where he is needed.  But once again, Mary’s words are ours, ““Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” Our fear may restrict us, but our hope at this incarnational moment moves us to incarnate Jesus in the world, to spread his word and announce his peace.

We must give birth to Christ in those places devoid of the peace and good will promised at Christmas.  We must give birth to Christ in those empty places in our lives and the lives of others where God’s salvific word goes unheard.  We must give birth to Christ in neighborhoods and lands that yearning for justice of the messiah.  The cries of the oppressed can only be accepted by those who labor to bring Christ’s justice to them.

It is Christmas week and we are pregnant.  Look, God even gave me a little space around the stomach to accomplish this birth.  It is Christmas week and the world rallies to see what comes forth from we who celebrate the Virgin birth.  Will they celebrate as well?  It is Christmas week, will those where the Gospel goes unheard or unheeded be a witness to new life?  Will those who have given up hope, have new promise breathed into them?   It is Christmas week, will we have the courage to share Christ boldly, with unrelenting service and unending love?  It is Christmas week, will it make a difference to those whom we love and those whom we do not know?  Surely, for the impossible has happened, God has become human. It is Christmas week and nothing will be impossible for God.

As we stand, pregnant with the hope of the world, carrying within us the promised redemption and loved beyond all telling, the one who offers the promise waits expectantly for our answer as once Mary’s word was awaited while heaven held their breath.  Give us the courage to respond, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”