The greens have been hung. The frontal has been changed. Flowers of red and white bloom from cold stone and dark wood.
And yet we wait. Advent may begin in the dark, with the thundering voice of John the Baptist ringing in our ears; but it ends in the light, with glad tidings lifting our hearts. Can you feel it?
Anticipatory smiles are on our faces. Good humor is already tugging at our lips. We know what is coming in just a few short hours. The music, the cookies, the shrieks and squeals of delight (at least in my house): the gift of Christmas is about to be opened — because the baby is coming. He’s almost here; but this morning on the last Sunday of Advent, his mother is still in labor — though not as we might expect. For with the words “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee,” the pain of childbearing begins to fade, the sin of Eve begins to be redeemed, the curse itself begins to lift. Because Mary — our Mother, God’s Mother — bowed her head and with her whole being said, “May it be to me according to thy word.”
Her “yes” was the beginning of it all, the beginning of the rebirth of everything — man, woman, child, bird, beast, rocks, trees — everything reborn in the birth of the Virgin’s Son.
Mary couldn’t have known what would happen the day Gabriel appeared. She may have been sweeping the floor or doing dishes when suddenly an angel spoke. And he addressed her as one would a queen: “Hail! Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”
And Mary, that righteous woman, fell on her knees, afraid — in awe — of what was about to be revealed. Her spirit was troubled. What could this greeting mean? And so she was silent. She waited, and she watched, and the peace of God which passes all understanding filled her heart and settled her mind and stilled her body.
Because Mary knew God. She knew him. She knew that the Holy One of Israel Is Who He Is and Will Be Who He Will Be, never changing and always surprising us. And so it was that she believed that this Word she had been given was Good News.
God is on the move. Messiah is coming. He is drawing near to save his people; but he comes not as a conquering king, approaching only as close to his servants as he could stand. He comes as a King who, setting aside his crown and taking off his royal robes, humbles himself until even the smallest, weakest child can behold him and know without a shadow of a doubt that this God-Man is Love. As the Apostle John put it so poignantly, the Word that was born of God before creation began, through whom all was made — He was born of Mary. God tabernacled among us, trading his glory and power for the helpless fragility of a baby in his mother’s womb.
And Mary loved him for it, loved him as her God and as her very own Son. How could she stay silent any longer? “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me. And holy is his name!”
The Blessed Virgin waits. Mother and child are about to meet. It is the quiet of the morning before the dawn of the last night — and we wait with her. Joyful. Expectant. Bearing Christ in our own way and in our own time. Praying with his Mother, our Mother, that the Child born in a manger might reign in our hearts — not just at Christmas, but always. AMEN.