Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - December 20, 2020
The spirit of promise and fulfillment once again permeates the prayers and scriptures on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We are called, forever, to sing the goodness and faithfulness of God to His people. We hear God speak a word and make promises to both King David and the Virgin Mary, both of whom have significant roles to play in the history of salvation. For her part, Mary makes the perfect response to God’s Word, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word!”
Despite whatever fear or difficulty understanding how the word spoken to her will come about, Mary cooperates with God’s grace. Saint Bernard notes in his homily, “In Praise of the Virgin Mother,” that in her “brief response, we are remade in order to be recalled to life.”
Mary’s faith relies on the strength and power of God. The name of the angel sent to her was “Gabriel,” which is a name that means “God is my strength,” This reinforces the idea that Mary’s child will be conceived through the power of God alone. As the year 2020 comes to an end, many of us would agree that it has been the strength that God gives us that has gotten us through and continues to get us through these tumultuous times.
Today, the story of the Annunciation shows once again how God continues to fulfill the covenant, how he is faithful to the promises he makes to his people, and how he works in the most unexpected ways. Just as God promised to make a house or dynasty for King David, so God makes a promise to Mary that He is with her and that the Holy Spirit will overshadow her. With the same words spoken to David centuries earlier, Mary is assured that the child in her womb will be special and fulfill the promise and assurances made to King David. This child will be the keeper of the promise and the fulfillment of the divine plan. This child, Emmanuel, will be the embodied presence of God with God’s people. Jesus shows us how God is continually present for us and to us.
Listening with trust, Mary showed that she believed that “nothing is impossible for God.” As the “handmaid of the Lord,” she put herself totally in service to God and God’s plan.
Because Mary says yes to God, the promise made to David will be fulfilled. The Son of the Most High will be given the throne of David. He will rule forever, and His kingdom will have no end. God’s salvation will come to us.
In these final days of Advent, we do well to ask how much and how well we listen to and trust God’s promise. “Nothing will be impossible for God,” is the proclamation and good news we hear today. As Advent gives way to the celebration of Christmas this year, we are encouraged to take even what seems to be the most impossible situation, relationship, or incident in our lives and believe that even there, God can bring about blessing, holiness, and salvation!
A blessed, happy, and healthy Christmas to you all!