Fourth Sunday of Advent
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Those Who Hear and Do
Who is God’s family? Where is God’s home? In the church we often speak of our home parish as a family. Many of us grew up thinking of the church building as God’s house. But the readings for this day call us to anticipate that Emmanuel might understand kinship and home in different ways. As we approach Christmas, which in our culture is increasingly a celebration of hearth and home more than a public festival, the inclusiveness of God’s promise rings out from these readings.
The temple often stood in the imagination of Israel as the “house of God,” but in 1 Samuel God expresses reservations before the temple is even built. The promise made to David is not about the building. Instead of the expected places of wealth and power, God chooses to dwell in a people instead of a “house of cedar” (2 Sam. 7:2, 7).
So if God is dwelling in a people, who is included in that promise? Although no one disputes that Jesus is born of the “house of David,” Luke’s gospel stresses Mary’s lowliness instead of her bloodlines, reminding us that Christ became flesh in the most unlikely circumstances. Later in Luke’s gospel, when someone mentions his family to Jesus, he says his family includes all “who hear the word of God and do it” (8:21). In today’s gospel we see Mary acting out that definition of family.
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
In this annunciation, Luke makes clear that God comes with good news for ordinary people from little known places. This king will not be born to royalty in a palace, but to common folk in a stall. Here Luke highlights the role of the Spirit, a special emphasis in this gospel.
26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.