..we are almost there..to Christmas or to the manger?.. “..ask the Lord your God for a sign for yourself” ..poor Ahaz didn’t want to ask the Lord because he knew well enough what the ask might be..& Isaiah gave him & now you & I the secret of Christmas .. ..the sign is this..”..the maiden is with child. & will soon give birth to a son..” ..the coming of a servant king..in a stable in a manger, the domain of the least..as we allow ourselves to be distracted into giving the best the most expensive, which every year disappoints.. ..for following the signs to Monks Cross instead of following the star, let us ask for Our Lords forgiveness..
“..ask the Lord your God for a sign..” ..a sign to my liking..” ; Lord have mercy “..the Lord himself therefore will give you a sign..” a sign to his need & almost certainly not to your liking.. ; Christ have mercy “..a name which means “God is with us” .. O come O come Emmanuel soon.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..it always strikes me our liturgists, those who decide which gospels to choose, got it wrong especially in Advent in keeping the best story, like the best wine, until last..gospel of the Annunciation ..which holds precedence as the greatest feast?..the Annunciation or Christmas or Easter Day?..& once you thread four Sundays of Advent together, it makes divine sense if not common sense..1st Sun “come..” join us on journey to manger..2nd Sun ”be tolerant “.love your neighbour & their infuriating habits ..3rd Sun”be patient” stop trying to set the pace & let us arrive at manger together..4thSun the ultimate sign “soon” very soon you will see for yourself..this Christmas & every Christmas is the first one like never before..typical Matthew gospel very Jewish neat & tidy, & inviting us to pray & to imagine what happened in gaps in between, the reality of the ordinary..Tony Jordans production for BBC in 2010 Jesus of Nazareth brings moment off page & into life, real life..BBC desperate to fill a God-slot, asked Tony,producer of East Enders, to do three programmes pre-Christmas; he had his own Annunciation moment ..a lapsed Catholic he opened bible & read infancy narrative, & it brought him to tears “how can this come about since I am a virgin?” “how can this come about since I am a lapsed Catholic?”well it came about because Tony Jordan was inspired “in-spirited” by grace; he entered into the moment, worked & prayed in a partnership, & an incarnation came about..for Tony & for those who thought they were watching from an armchair & right side of a control zap, & who gradually realised it was the story of each of them..& us..giving birth to faith, a revisting of their relationship with God that seemingly was lost or dormant/infertile..like Elizabeth old & barren..& now re-energised restored, coming to birth & rebirth..how many of us faithful loyal practising Catholics for years have remained barren, seemingly infertile, up to now..the “now” word Pope Francis loves because it is incarnational, a first Christmas..your first real Christmas..& all of it the result of a crisis moment/struggle where each of them &us now separate divorced relationally, struggled to “come” to the moment [1stAdvent] to “tolerate one another” [2nd Advent] to “be patient” in kairos divine time [3rd Advent] & become again the womb space wherein Christ could be born, conditional, I dare to say, on one ingredient this Christmas “belief” “let it be done to me according to your word”..Mary Joseph & now Catherine Peter Margaret “do not be afraid to take Mary home “..”we are not afraid” website which went viral on day of 7 July bombings in London..within 24hrs there were 7million hits on it..”we are afraid &we need help to carry it”; in their/our crisis moment, seeking the presence of an angel who didn’t/couldn’t bring a quick fix answer but brought the grace to wait patiently & believe in spite of the absence of answer..& for some reason, known only to liturgists, last verse of story is omitted..kept from us..”when Joseph woke up he did what the angel told him to do” his “yes”at best questionable & questioning, echoing Mary’s initial hesitation & ours, is incardinated into the body of Christ already growing in her womb space & ours ..& the rest is salvation history then & now..a Tony Jordan moment for you & I..to read infancy narrative again at home, & to give yourself permission to cry as you read it, as it gets inside you & you feel the growing pains..& then to go & to say what is needed of you this Christmas..a first Christmas..never a repeat..share with you an Annunciation moment I encountered last week reading of Matthew Kelty a Cistercian monk “Lord any commitment involves a long journey. We remember when we first committed ourselves; we would fight against racism or sexism or injustice at the workplace; we worked among addicts; we served the Church & local community. At first we felt very happy, but one day recognised that this was your work, in which success couldn’t be calculated on earthly terms. It was like when Joseph discovered that Mary, his betrothed, was with child through the Holy Spirit, & we too decided we wanted out as discreetly as we could. But first, as we had to made up our minds to do this, you sent an angel to us, someone who told us not to be afraid; we thank you, that when we thought about it, we found the courage to do what your angel told us to do.There is some spouse within us that we must meet, & failing that, we fail wholeness. There is in the heart of us all some image of the Beloved which we must not merely acknowledge but know, love & embrace. Without this marriage there can be no real human life.” ..an offer of marriage, on offer to each of us in three days time, not in the registry office, where Joseph thought he was going, but in a stable..will you take the courage & the grace to come to the manger & to say “yes!”..will you..will you? [ 4thAdvent YrA Mt 1;18-24 ]