Fourth Sunday of Advent B: December 24, 2023

Luke 1: 26-38

Fr. John Tran

In the first reading from 2nd Samuel, David has settled into kingship and even has a fine house of cedar. He starts to feel a little sorry for God who only has a tent to dwell in. So David decides the he will create a house for the Lord to house the Ark of the Covenant. We think, how arrogant of David to presume to take care of the Lord. Apparently the Lord was thinking along the same lines when the lord tells David,“Go tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord, you should build me a house to dwell in?.. I took you from the pasture...I have been with you wherever you went...I have destroyed all your enemies...I will make you famous.” The Lord makes it clear a little further on, that only the Lord will decide where he will live and who shall build it.

Much later, when the Father decided it was the right time to show more clearly who he is to humankind, it was the Father who chooses who would carry his Son to be born into this world. The new Ark of the Covenant was an unknown young girl of humble origins. And this Ark is both most exalted and most humble. As I mentioned on the Immaculate Conception, Eve, in the beginning, could be considered to be most exalted also; but in the end she was not most humble. The first woman could have led us into Paradise and did not; the second Eve, Mary, did in fact make the possibility of the heavenly paradise a possibility for us all.

But Mary's life was not a sure thing, any more than Eve's was. They had no idea of the challenges that were before them. This is brought out most touchingly in a modern Christmas carol. One of the most beautiful of the modern Christmas songs was written by a man who is best known, perhaps, as a comedian. His name is Mark Lowry. Lowry is also a musician of some note. In 1984 he was asked to pen some words for his local church choir, and he wrote a poem that begins like this, “Mary, did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?” A few years later guitarist Buddy Greene added a perfectly matching tune and a wonderful song was born. “Mary, did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? Mary, did you know when you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God!” Each of the little couplets touches the heart in a wonderful way. “Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?” The song’s been around now for nearly two decades. Listen for it on the radio. The most popular version is sung by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd. “Mary, did you know . . . ?” How could Mary have known what was happening to her with all that would follow when the angel Gabriel came to her long ago? She could have decided that it was all too much, but she did not. In today's gospel, Luke tells us the beginning of Mary's story.

Mary had no clear idea the she was “pregnant with the holy”, that “she was weighed down with the Word of God,” to use the imagery of John of the Cross in his Christmas poem. We might think that if Mary did know all the things in song “Mary Did You Know,” she would be too overwhelmed to go on. But was it any easier for Mary not to know; what happened when she “pondered these things in her heart?” Did it occur to her that she was experiencing God in disguise? What was it like for her to wonder if she and Joseph were doing the right things, to understand how to teach things necessary for human development? John of the Cross brings these questions home when he has Mary ask us: “I need shelter for the night, please take me into your heart, my time is close...Then under the roof of your soul, you will witness the sublime intimacy...the divine taking birth forever, as she grasps your hand for help...we are each of us the midwife of God...”

This brings us out of speculating what Mary felt and did, makes us face our position on the Lord of all creation. Will we be the willing midwife? Will we see the face of God as we kiss the beggar, the stranger, the enemy, the loved one, or the undesirable one? Or, will we, even though the Lord has been kind and merciful to us, instead be warm and comfy in our house of cedar?

If we do see God in all these different people, our hope will be made real – as St. John writes in his first epistle: “We shall become like him, for we shall see him as he really is.”