Fr. Stuart Parkes, the Vice Rector of the college, completes our Advent reflections with a consideration of the message in the final weekend before Christmas.
I am sitting at the desk in my office on Thursday afternoon; the college is filled with a certain amount of tiredness but also excitement and joy as we prepare for our Advent service and Christmas Dinner. The attention of most members of our college community turns towards their flight home on Friday morning. A sense of joy as classes for the year have come to an end and a joyful welcome at home from family and friends awaits the community as they return to Scotland, Ireland and the United States.
This Sunday people may be finding themselves in Church twice within a few hours celebrating this fourth Sunday of Advent and also returning later for Christmas Masses. It means we don’t have long to celebrate this fourth Sunday and its message of preparation for our welcome of the Lord.
David is disturbed as he lives in a house built of Cedar and the ark of God is kept in a tent. It seems wrong, he feels that the dwelling place of God should be somewhere more fitting than a tent, he wants to prepare that fitting place for the Lord to dwell. Mary while at first distressed by the greeting of the angel Gabriel finds in the message of the angel the will of God for her. By her simple response of “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me.” she agrees with joy to be the dwelling place of the Son of the Most High. A joy Mary will later proclaim when she rejoices with her cousin Elizabeth.
Today prepares us to welcome the Lord in our Christmas celebration tonight and tomorrow. Can we welcome the Lord in our own lives with the concern of David, that our lives may be a fitting place for the Lord to dwell. Mary quickly discerns God’s will for her despite her initial apprehension and embraces what the Lord asks of her, confident that the Lord will support and guide her in what he asks of her. Can we too accept the will of God with joy, confident that we will be capable of doing what he asks with his help.
The prophet Nathan tells David to go and do all that is in his mind, for “the Lord is with you”, not the only time today we will hear those words. The angel Gabriel says the same words in greeting to Mary in the gospel. At Mass we hear the same words in the greeting used by the priest and deacon throughout Mass. It reminds us of the promise of God, that the child who will be born for us, will be Emmanuel, God who is with us. When we “The Lord be with you” we are assured that the presence of the Lord is within all of us who worship together.
As we joyfully greet family when we gather this Christmas we pray that we may be ready to welcome the Lord with the same great joy and be ready with the trusting faith of Mary to accept the Lord’s will in our lives.