4th Sunday of Advent (B) 2017

The most important sentence for me in todays Gospel reading is the very last one.
Mary said yes.
‘Then the angel departed from her.’
God is a smooth operator. He sent Gabriel to this young girl, barely out of her teens. He came with fine words of praise and great promises for the future. When Mary broached a small problem – she wasn’t married – it was answered with high sounding words of reassurance. No mention of her becoming a pregnant unmarried woman (the penalty for this was death by stoning) or that her boyfriend would want to break of their relationship as a result. No mention that she would have to solve this problem on her own with apparently no Angelic help. And this was only the beginning of her troubles; No mention of the early death of her husband and that she would have to cope on her own. No mention of the arrest and execution of her son as a common criminal.
This resonates with me. I became a priest on a flood tide of optimism about the importance of the calling, the great work awaiting to be done and the dignity and sanctity of priesthood in the sight of God and man. I didn’t pause to consider any drawbacks.
I said yes.
‘Then the angel departed from me.’
That is how God works.
God created me and Mary and you with certain and differing abilities. He coaxes us into saying yes. Then he disappears and lets us get on with it using the abilities God has given us.
The gift of free will demands that things be so. It demands the freedom to love or not love, the freedom to choose good or evil, the freedom to build up or to knock down.
I am sure that Mary woke up in the morning from time to time wondering how on earth she got herself into such a position.
I have awoken in the morning from time to time and wondered what on earth I am doing in this job.
Without doubt, you also have woken up in the morning, from time to time and wondered how on earth you ended up as you are.
But of course the Angel does not depart.
God does not depart.
It is only looking back over the years that one can appreciate that God did not depart.
It is not only the abilities and strengths which God gave me that have helped me, but also many things I regarded as my weaknesses can now be seen as protections from danger and harm.
‘Behold I am with you always. Yes, to the end of time.’
It is through struggle, hard work and failure, that I grow, mature and increase in wisdom and understanding.
Christmas is our guarantee of God’s constant presence, guidance and help. Immanuel.
Success in life has nothing to do with one’s salary, one’s possessions, one’s health, one’s standing in life.
Success in life is about conscious living in the presence of one’s God. Immanuel.