4th Sunday of Advent, Year C

 Mic 5:1-4a; I Sam 17:12; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45

Our mother church can never celebrate the role of Mary in the life and mission of Christ enough. In today's liturgy of the word, God demonstrats through David and Mary that human beings can and do make a difference. God invites us and trusts us to make the difference today on this eve of the Lord’s coming.

When it comes to talents, some people seem to have them in abundance: they are kind, bright, artistic, personable, sought after and very humble, they don’t have a big head. Some people strive earnestly for talents that others don’t seem to have or possess all too easily and effortlessly. There are several people who train, sweat, struggle, diet, try to say the right things, try to please, but for all their efforts they get nothing but misery and rejection. 

Like the prince in one fairly tale who goes into serious training to win the heart of the princess. He tries every charm but she has her eyes fixed elsewhere and marries a penniless woodcutter who didn’t do anything to win her love and favour. The woodcutter was chosen because of the mysterious preference of the princess’s love. The prince is left in midst and wonder to as he churns over his disapproval and disappointment.

Like this bewildered prince, when we see how some people are gifted or chosen, we tend to ask: what did they do to deserve all that? We presume that they must have done something special and we get easily tangled up trying to scrutinize their performance for some clue. And in all these we tend to forget the freedom and wisdom of the one who gives gifts and endowments in the first place.

When the prophet Mica was writing [around 8th century BC], Jerusalem was under siege and David’s dynasty was in jeopardy. But according to the prophet, salvation would come to the people from a comparatively little, obscure and insignificant place, Bethlehem in Judah]. Bethlehem was God’s choice. Also Some 2006 years ago, in a city named Nazareth, a young girl was approached by the Archangel Gabriel with a special message and a very special mission. Her name was Mary and her mission was to become the mother of Jesus Christ, the messiah, the Son of the most high God. May was just a peasant girl, neither wealthy nor of noble birth. Back then, there was no test tube babies, no in-vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, no surrogate motherhood or genetic engineering of any sort. Mary asked the necessary question and believed. The gift and honour and the blessings was such that she chose to go down straight to their hill country to share this marvellous  experience with her kinswoman Elizabeth who was also herself a  beneficiary of this great benevolence of God.  Mary and Elizabeth were chosen by God for special missions. They fulfilled those missions very faithfully. The obscure city of Bethlehem was a potent tool in God’s hands for the birth of the Messiah. It became the most popular. 

In his book titled “Christmas”, the Kerry writer John Keane talks about ‘the urging’ of Christmas. He tells about a man who in normal circumstances wouldn’t give you the crumbs from his table, but who when imbued with the spirit of Christmas, phoned his estranged daughter in England and begged her to come home for Christmas. The daughter accepted his invitation and on both sides all was forgiven and reconciliation ensued. John Keane remarks that the difficult man wasn’t as mean afterwards. He concludes in that book ‘so my friends, take Christmas by the horns, it can work wonders. He advised that we shouldn’t be weepy or sentimental about Christmas, because we might not get another chance during the year to show our humanity to the world. Christmas is about taking stock of our humanity and dispensing it to the world where it is most needed. So, if we feel the impulse to be forgiving and charitable and loving, we shouldn’t think twice about it or we will miss the boat. The milk of human kindness does not come from cows and goats, it comes from that great repository of compassion and hope which is the human heart.

The Spirit of Christmas cannot be killed. It has survived, Napoleon Bona Parte, Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Idi – Amin Dada, Mussolini and many other tyrants. It has survived human greed and jealousy and every other human failings conceivable. It might be good to ask ourselves the question: what is God calling me to do this Christmas? What is at stake for us this Christmas? Is it to mend a failing and crumbling relationship, to break an unholy habits, to reach out and talk to people who come to church and not just those I am comfortable with alone. As we do this pondering, let’s not forget that God might choose to stretch us as he did to Mary. Can we move beyond the realm of the simple and possible so as to explore the complex and mysterious?   

 - By Fr. Innocent Abonyi, MSP

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