A reflection for Advent IV by the Rev'd Russell Duncan

Submitted by Dean on Sat, 19/12/2020 - 15:36

Advent IV – Sunday 20th December 2020

Let it be with me according to your word

Like most journeys, many of us are glad when they come to an end.  Sometimes there a great sense of relief and satisfaction just to finish. We may feel tired, exhausted or worn out. We may wish that we had not started on them or been taken in a particular direction over which we had no control. At other times we wish they continued forever. A holiday, a friendship, a new and exciting opportunity, an unexpected encounter.   

Today the fourth Advent candle, representing Mary, the mother of God, the God-bearer, the theotokos, is lit. Our waiting is almost over.

If I was to ask you “what have you been wondering and pondering upon since our first Advent candle was lit, what would you tell me? Would it be one of new beginnings or a new understanding? Would it be one of asking questions which remain, as yet, unanswered or unresolved? Would we say that we have not had time or is there something that we are grappling with and will not let go?

In today’s gospel (The Annunciation), Mary too had questions. She was much perplexed and pondered upon what was being said. “How can this be?”  No doubt there were other questions and emotions which are not disclosed.

What surprises me is that Mary said “yes” so willingly.  “Yes” to the Incarnation.  “Yes” to a God who desired to dwell within her. To say that it was inconvenient and not good timing, would be an understatement. She overcame her fear by trusting the message Gabriel brought.  “Do not be afraid, for you have found favour with God”.  She opened her heart to this sudden, unexpected and life changing message. She opened her womb to bear a son, who was to be named Jesus.

Meister Eckhart (c.1260-c1328) believed that we are all meant to be mothers of God. He wrote “What good is it for me if this eternal birth of the divine son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within me? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace, if I am not also full of grace?”

In his book “Waiting on the Word”, Malcolm Guite  also comments that although Mary’s role as the God-bearer, is in one way unique, in that she alone physically nurtures and brings into the world the body and person of Jesus Christ, in another way Mary is the archetype of every  Christian soul, and of the whole Church. We are all in some way called to respond to God’s promise. To say “be it unto me according to thy word”, to treasure his words and the gift of his spirit in our hearts. In some way, even in the intimacy of our own flesh and daily lives, to bear him into the world. Mary is our model and our encouragement as we prepare both outwardly and visibly and inwardly and spiritually for his “arrival” this Christmas.   

I want to end with the Collect appointed for the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Lord, which encapsulates something of her response: -

Almighty God,

Who looked with favour on your servant Mary

And called her to be the mother of your Son;

Grant us, we pray,

The humility which found favour in your sight;

That we, with her, may proclaim the greatness of your name,

And find the mercy shown to those who stand in awe of you.

Let it be with me according to your word