Depends entirely on what we believe is the reason for the season. If we believe that Christmas is nothing more than a vacation from work and school, or a time for shopping and gorging on massive amounts of food while watching football, maybe we are ready. For others, Christmas is a time for stress because everyone is coming over, and we want the house to be in perfect shape.
But is this the kind of preparation the Advent season calls for? Not hardly. This fourth and final weekend of Advent is our last opportunity to prepare spiritually for the greatest moment in salvation history....the birth of our savior, Jesus the Christ...when the Word becomes flesh...when God becomes man. So let’s take a few minutes to reflect on what’s going on in today’s Gospel.
The past two Sundays, we heard from Isaiah the Prophet and John the Baptist, who encourage us to “prepare the way of the Lord and make ready for his coming.” Today, we hear from Mary, the vessel through which Christ the Savior is born. Known in literature and in art as the Annunciation, the archangel Gabriel appears to a humble handmaid and invites her to become...the mother of God. To understand the vital importance and critical mission of Mary, we look back to the story of Adam and Eve, our first parents.
Recall in Genesis, God creates man in his image. Male and female, He created him. He blessed them, saying “Be fertile and multiple, fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” God gave Adam the commission to rule, to govern and to have dominion over all living things. Stewardship and dominion. Not to be confused with domination. After all, Adam was made in image of God. A God of Love. Therefore, Adam’s Lordship, his dominion over creation, was always meant to be a reflection of God’s love.
Adam’s kingly mission was to turn the whole world into the garden of Eden. A place of harmony and of love. What happened? Adam became a bad king. By falling into sin, Adam and Even fall out of garden. And their descendants, saddled with sin, turned the world into a place of violence and corruption, hatred and fear. Adam should have had dominion over the serpent, but he allowed the serpent to have dominion over him. As a result, the Garden of Eden was compromised and communion with Heaven was lost.
Adam’s kingship was a failure. Later comes King David who was supposed to restore the kingship to its proper form. But he too failed. God is all knowing, so why would He appoint kings who he knew would fail? To teach us that humans can never make it alone; we need Him. To rescue us from sin and death, God became man so that we might share in His divinity and receive the gift of eternal life. He sent us His only son, Jesus Christ, the King who finally restores creation and our communion with Heaven.
Too often, we fail to recognize the pivotal role that Mary has in this cosmic drama. Look how the angel addresses Mary. “Hail Mary, full of grace!” In a world corrupted by sin, this young, humble housemaid was blessed among all women. Just with the salutation, we know that there is something singularly special about this woman because she is blessed among all others. She has found favor with God and is filled with His grace.
The angel then lays out for her the divine plan in which she is to play a unique and essential role: “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”
At first, Mary is afraid, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” She is understandably confounded and rattled. The messenger then says: “Don’t be afraid, Mary. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The angel reminds Mary of her cousin Elizabeth, who was supposed to be barren, but was now six months pregnant, proving that “nothing is impossible for God.”
True, authentic faith has been described as a “passion for the impossible. A loving surrender to that which the mind cannot see.” This is the kind of faith Mary exhibits when she gives her fiat, “I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”
The early Church fathers often made a connection between Eve, the mother of all the living, and Mary, the Mother of God. They saw Mary as the new Eve. The moment Mary said Yes Lord, she reversed the damage caused by Eve when she rejected God’s will. When Eve said no, Mary said yes. Where Eve failed, Mary succeeded.
Mary’s YES made the impossible, possible - the virgin birth of the son of God. In freely accepting the Incarnation, Mary allowed God’s love to become enfleshed for the transformation of the world. Mary is the ultimate role model for every follower of Christ, precisely because her response to the angel is the response every disciple should give to God’s desire for incarnation within each of us.
St. Athanasius said, “God became man so that man might become God.” In other words, God became a human being in the person of Christ Jesus so that we, by encountering Jesus, might become another Christ. Now we start to see why the Holy Eucharist, which we confess is the true presence of Christ - Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity - is the source and the summit of the Catholic faith.
One of the great spiritual masters once said, “The heart of the spiritual life is knowing that Your life...is not about you!” Once we recognize that it’s not all about me or you, but all about Him, we open ourselves up to the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to come upon us and overshadow us, enabling Jesus to become incarnate in each of our hearts.
Advent is over today, so let me ask again. Are we prepared for Christmas? Are we ready? When the angel called on Mary, she said YES! Now it’s our turn. Are we willing to allow Jesus to become enfleshed and alive in us, so that we can continue where Adam failed, building the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of Love, on earth as it is in Heaven? The angel is asking. What is our response?