(watch here: https://youtu.be/LFVAgzh37OQ)
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.
As many of you have noticed, this year’s Advent calendar has conspicuously aligned itself with the secular calendar. Our fourth and final week of Advent also happens to fall on the eve of Christmas. This is the quickest possible turnaround between the two seasons. As soon as we wrap up our time of preparation for the coming of our Lord, he more or less arrives on the scene. There’s not a lot of time between our preparation and his arrival. We’ll close our time of preparation this morning only to herald his arrival later this evening. Naturally, this quick turnaround causes a minor predicament for the larger church, especially the Catholic church. It asks whether there is an adequate amount of time in between the closure of one season and the beginning of another. The predicament is not unlike that of a child being born en route to the hospital. Was it the right time for the baby to come? Was it prematurely robbed of precious time in the womb by coming too soon? Likewise, are we being deprived of precious time of preparation by condensing the final week of Advent into mere hours?
Alas, we can’t ever know the answer to such questions. The arrival of a baby, the arrival of Jesus, are determined by God and God alone. Only God knows when a baby should be born. Only God knows when Jesus should arrive. And God’s time is very different than our time. What we consider to be an abbreviated final week of Advent might be consider just right for God so we probably shouldn’t wrestle with questions about the adequacy of this day. So what if this last Sunday in Advent falls on the eve of the Christmas season?! We are prepared for his arrival! We don’t need another week to ponder his arrival! Let Jesus come to us just as we are and just as our calendars are set up to forecast! Let the baby come en route to the hospital! It reminds us that we don’t have control over time. It reminds us that we don’t have much control over anything. It reminds us that we are pretty small in comparison to God and God’s ways.
How small do you think Mary felt when she was approached by Gabriel so long ago? How much control do you think Mary felt as a teenager who had become mysteriously pregnant? I imagine she felt pretty small and pretty powerless. I imagine she felt pretty confused and dumbfounded. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Mary asks. She didn’t know what was going on or why it was happening. Heck, she didn’t even know how it was happening! But she did know all that was important: she knew her relationship with God. She knew who God was. She knew that nothing was impossible with God, just as Gabriel had told her. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word,” she responded. She knew she was nothing more than a servant to our almighty God. You’ve heard me say it before but it bears repeating: God’s ways are not our ways. And God’s ways are much more complex than our ways. God does and thinks in ways we can’t even begin to understand. God is much greater than you and me. God is much greater than Mary and she knew it. She didn’t need to know why she was to be the mother of the Son of God. She was simply curious as to how it was possible, especially considering her state of virginity. Even then, Gabriel gives her an obscure explanation involving the Holy Spirit. But it’s enough to satisfy her desire for an explanation and sets about the task of mothering the Son of God.
There are far more important conundrums to ponder than whether we have sufficient time to prepare for our coming Lord with an abbreviated final week of Advent. We’ll never know if we’re prepared enough, just as Mary never knew why she was chosen to bear the Son of God. We’d do best to imitate her unwavering faith despite such a confusing situation she found herself it. Not once did Mary refuse to accept her responsibility. Not once did Mary refuse the sovereignty of our God. Not once did Mary deny the powers of our God. No, Mary knew who God is and what He is capable of. Mary knew who she was in relation to God. She knew that all things are possible with God and that an unwavering faith in God is all that is important.
In just under 24 hours, we will again celebrate the coming of our Lord and Savior. Are we prepared for his coming? Sure! Why? Because we believe he comes bearing the four gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. Because we believe he comes to save the world, not condemn it. Because we believe that whoever believes in him will have eternal life. Because we believe, plain and simple! That’s all we need to be prepared! Let us go into the evening both grateful and joyous. God is with us, thanks be to God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.