This gospel from Luke is so very familiar to us. In fact, we just heard it a couple of weeks ago on December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. On that day we interpreted the gospel within the context of the feast day, and focused on Mary’s holiness as announced by Gabriel’s greeting of her: “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”
Now, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent when we hear this gospel proclaimed again, we are drawn particularly to Gabriel’s annunciation that Mary would, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “conceive in [her] womb and bear a son.” Conception to birth: a time of waiting and anticipation, nurturing life and protecting it, preparing and hoping. Can we not imagine Mary and Joseph quietly sitting together during these wonderful months of pregnancy, wondering about this great mystery, putting their hands on Mary’s body and feeling “the child to be born” stirring in her womb? Each kick that a mother (and father) feels in the womb is an annunciation of life. Each movement is an annunciation of life eagerly bursting to come forth. In Mary’s womb, the Life stirring is the author of life and salvation, the very “Son of God,” announcing that a new in-breaking of God is happening.
God’s whole plan of salvation is a perpetual annunciation. In this gospel, there are numerous “annunciations” beyond Gabriel’s revealing to Mary that she would conceive “the Son of God.” Gabriel makes known that Mary is holy; that the child shall be named Jesus; that the kingdom of this Child would have no end; that this Child is “holy, the Son of God”; that Elizabeth has conceived; that “nothing will be impossible for God”; and that Mary is God’s faithful and obedient handmaid. Indeed, perpetual annunciation is God’s pattern of relating to us. How do we, then, relate to God? We do so by responding with a yes to God’s annunciations in our own lives. God chooses to be known to us, names us holy, and desires that we be filled with God’s Life. Our response, like Mary’s, must be one of openness and full-throated yes to whatever God asks of us.
God’s annunciations of saving Presence can come to us in so many ways. Yes, God speaks to us during times of prayer. But God also speaks to us through the everyday persons and events of our lives, in cries for help and forgiveness or in the jubilation of success and growth. God’s annunciations of salvation might be mediated by our struggle to make a just decision or our choice to walk away from a group engaging in negative gossip. Yes is not simply a word.
Deepening our relationship with God and others happens when our yes becomes a way of living.
We have only a few days left before we celebrate Christmas, the mystery of God becoming human. Now is the time to rehearse our own yes to God by imitating Mary’s faithfulness and obedience to God’s annunciations. Perhaps we could consciously think of our holiday greeting to others as a way to make generosity and joy concrete. Perhaps we could take a few minutes out of our busy days to listen for God’s word to us, say yes, and then put God’s annunciation into action, “enflesh” God’s Presence in the goodness of our own lives. God’s annunciations are perpetual and beg from us a yes response. Will this Christmas be a time to renew our own commitment to say yes to God and God’s offer of salvation?