We are in the final week of Advent and Christmas is upon us this Thursday. The Gospel Reading for this Fourth Sunday of Advent is what we call the Annunciation, as recorded in Luke 1:26-38, in which Mary received word from the angel Gabriel about Jesus’ birth. The angel greeted Mary with these words: “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you”.
The text says that Mary was puzzled and wondered about this greeting. The words, “The Lord be with you” are familiar in our liturgy. They are words of comfort and reassurance. The angel essentially said to Mary, “all is well”. Indeed, in the greeting he added, “Do not be afraid”.
We are receiving the same reassurance as we commemorate the arrival of Jesus into our troubled world: Do not be afraid; all will be well with Jesus in our midst.
The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55, is Mary’s response in which she declares: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has looked with favor on His servant…the Almighty has done great things for me…” This affirms that the Lord is in control; what is unfolding is of the Lord’s doing, not human.
In the Epistle Reading for this Sunday (Romans 16:25-27) Paul writes of the revelation of the mystery that was hitherto hidden or secret. God is a god of mystery beyond the cliché that God works in mysterious ways. We cannot figure out God, there is always a sense of the unfathomable by human understanding. Indeed, this whole story of salvation in Jesus Christ is a mystery.
Look at the First Reading (2 Samuel 7:1-11,16) where David desires to build a house for the Lord (a temple). Yet the Lord says, “no; you won’t build me a house! I will establish a house for you; a dynasty and a special people”. It is the Lord doing, not humans.
And so, like Mary, we are perplexed at this mighty doing of the Lord, and like the psalmist in this Sunday’s Psalm 89:1-4; 19-26, we can only sing of “Your love, O Lord, for ever” and our mouths will proclaim God’s faithfulness from generation to generation.
There is reassurance in the Annunciation and in the Coming of Jesus, that God’s “love is established forever” (Ps. 89:2). We can even summarize this mystery in the words of Ephesians 2:7-9: “In order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in hid kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast”.
It is grace, and it is of God’s doing.