2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-11, 16 / Romans 16:25-27 / Luke 1:26-38
Very soon we will be opening up our Christmas presents, if we have not opened them up already.
Regardless of whether we were naughty or nice, a Christmas present has a sense of surprise, or mystery.
Because it says something about the recipient and it also says something about the giver.
But nowadays the mystery or surprise is often taken away because to make the task easier we might be asked “What do you want for Christmas?” That makes it easy for the giver. But we better be specific about what we ask for.
A story goes that an angel appeared to a pious and devout man and told him that he will be rewarded with two wishes for being faithful to his prayers and good deeds.
The man thought for a while and said, “My first wish is to have the best wine.” And “poof!” there was a bottle of wine, he tasted the wine and it was very good. Then he said, “My second wish is to have the best woman.” And “poof!” and guess who? - St. Mother Teresa! (Who was he thinking of?)
Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent, and this time round, Christmas is just a day away. And as we come for Mass today, have we ever thought of asking God for a Christmas present? And if we are, then what are we asking for?
Whether or not we are asking God for a Christmas present, He has something to give us, and we don’t have to wait till Christmas Day to know what it is.
And if we are guessing what it is, well, it is not the best wine, not the best woman, but none other than Mother Mary.
Yes, God wants to present to us the gift of Mary on this 4th Sunday of Advent so that we can take a moment to think about what God wants to give us at Christmas.
But to begin with, the whole Christmas event began at the Annunciation, which was the account that we heard in the gospel.
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And the angel Gabriel had a surprise for Mary. He had a present for her.
It was a surprise but in a way, also not a surprise. The present is to be opened nine months later. But the angel Gabriel had all the details of the present.
And it goes like this: “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.”
So would Mary accept this present? Well she was disturbed and confused and so she said, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin.”
And the angel Gabriel gave her even more astounding details like the Holy Spirit covering her with His Shadow, Elizabeth in her six month of pregnancy, and that nothing is impossible for God.
As Mary listened to all this, she could be thinking, “This is not what I wanted or expected. And why me?” And probably many other things were going on in her mind.
But here is where Mary has something to teach us. As much as she had her apprehensions and questions, she chose to listen. She listened to what the angel Gabriel had to tell her. And she believed, and blessed is she because she believed.
But of course, accepting that divine present was not without challenges and difficulties. Would Joseph believe her? And then the census were held and being heavy with child, she and Joseph had to make their way to Bethlehem, only to have doors shut to their faces, and giving birth in a manger, and then almost immediately having to flee from the evil Herod.
But she listened, she accepted the gift, she believed in the gift, and now Mary wants us to have that gift too. But like her, we must listen, we must believe that it is a divine gift.
A young man graduated from university with honours. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer’s showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted for Christmas.
As Christmas Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of Christmas Day, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. Then he handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box.
Curious, and somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man’s name embossed in gold. He got angry, and he raised his voice at his father and said, “With all your money, you give me a Bible?” and he stormed out and left home.
Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and a wonderful family, but he also realised his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that Christmas Day.
Before he could make arrangements, he received news telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.
When he arrived at his father’s house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to go through his father’s important papers and then saw the still gift-wrapped Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With a heavy heart, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse from the gospel of Matthew, 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was written “Merry Christmas”, and the words PAID IN FULL. If he had only listened to what his father said before giving him the gift.
Just a story to help us realize how many times we miss God’s blessings and gifts just because we can’t see past our own ideas and desires.
But today we are presented with the gift of Mary, who listened to what the angel Gabriel had to say. Mary chose to listen to what God had to say, though she had her own ideas and plans.
Mary listened and received the divine gift. May we also like Mary listen to what God is saying in the depths of our hearts so that Christmas will be indeed a celebration of the divine gift of Jesus in our hearts.