The Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Mary’s yes to God

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Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ December 20, 2020

Few things have ever been written in the history of the world that can approach the lyric beauty of the Gospel of Luke today. No matter how many times we read it, we are immersed in its majestic simplicity.

This moment in history had been foretold since the days of creation, when it was promised that a woman would give birth to the One who would vanquish the power of Satan. If the moment had been orchestrated by Madison Avenue, it would’ve been surrounded by pomp and circumstance, proclaimed far and wide. As usual, though, God’s ways are not our ways.

The word that had been awaited for centuries came silently as the sunrise, to a young girl in an obscure village, a young one who, until that moment,  had but one significant event to anticipate: She was to wed the local carpenter.

Now, with a few soft-spoken words from an angel,  and her “Fiat!, her resounding Yes, / her “let it be done according to thy word,”   she became the central figure in the plan of Redemption, without whom / God’s plan would not be fulfilled.

(God needed Mary’s YES!)

This was not the first time God had sent a messenger  to announce the birth of a child in extraordinary circumstances. Remember Sarah and her husband, Abraham?   They had exhausted every hope of having a child of their own, for they were far beyond the age of childbearing. But since nothing is impossible with God, Sarah conceived and bore a son whom they named Isaac, as God had directed.

Centuries later,  the scene is repeated: Zechariah and Elizabeth had despaired of having a child, for both were advanced in age. But Elizabeth conceived and bore a child, John the Baptist,whose entire life would be dedicated to one purpose ~ to prepare the way of the Lord. 

Now the centuries of prophecy are about to be fulfilled. Again, there is an unlikely conception, for Mary was yet a virgin. Again that this most unlikely of all births might become a reality, God’s intervention was needed. Gabriel, messenger of the Most High, assures her . . .

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. Therefore, the child to be born from of your womb will be called holy,  the Son of God.”

All that had transpired in salvation history up to this moment hung in the balance  waiting for this girl’s response:  She took her time. She questioned the angel. and then she finally said, Yes.  “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

And then the angel left her, leaving for her and Joseph to work out the details, some of which were going to be quite problematic.

We’ll hear the Nativity story in four days. Today, I invite you to think about the whole story,  as though you were thinking about it for the first time. Consider what a wild, crazy, loving thing God did!   God created us, when he didn’t have to, simply because he wanted to share his love and his joy. We sinned, rejected God,  decided to go our own way, and created a huge distance between God and us. You would think that God would say, “OK, have it your own way, then, but be prepared for the consequences.” But he didn’t. Instead, God decided to bridge that distance  and repair the damage that we did.

How? First of all, by becoming one of us. A real, living, breathing, in-the-flesh human being who was also God. And not by coming down in overpowering glory and majesty. No,  by being conceived in the womb of a young woman, a teenager, actually. And then by being born not in a palace but in a stable, a shelter for animals,  on the outskirts of a small town, in a country that was not one of the big players  in the power and politics of the time.

Does this make sense? Is this a normal way of behaving – considering that the person doing it is almighty God,  creator and Lord of the universe? No. this doesn’t make a shred of common sense. This is the action of someone absolutely consumed by infinite love for people  who were not acting lovably. We get so used to hearing this story that we say, “Well, sure, of course!” when it ought to take our breath away.

Today, as preparation for the great Christmas feast that’s coming in four days, let’s try to appreciate in anew the stunning immensity of God’s love for us ~ God’s desire to get us back when we were gone astray as the Christmas carol says.

Let us say Yes to God as Mary did.

A Yes that opens us up to his great love.

A Yes that shares his love with our family,

with our neighborhood,

with our work place,

with our country,

with all the world.

In a few days we will celebrate the birth of Mary’s child, a birth as striking in its simplicity as was the announcement by Gabriel.   Perhaps, during these few days,  we would do well to ask Mary to help us prepare our hearts for his coming, as she did. Better than anyone else, she knows how to do that.

And now, before you go, here’s the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with a glorious rendition of Handel’s “And the Glory of the Lord. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

With love,

Bob Traupman

Contemplative Writer

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

The Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – 2019

  While all things were   

      in quiet silence,

And when night was

      in the midst of

   her swift course,

Your Almighty Word,

           O Lord,

Leaped down out

of your royal throne,

                            Alleluia! 

     ~ And the Word became flesh

and lived among us.  John 1:14

Dear Friends,

Our waiting is over.

Christmas is here!

This Christmas I want to share with you an excerpt from one of my favorite Advent authors ~ Brennan Manning entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable.

God entered into our world not with the crushing impact of unbearable glory, but in the way of weakness, vulnerability and need. On a wintry night in an obscure cave, the infant Jesus was a humble, naked, helpless God who allowed us to get close to him.

God comes as a newborn baby, giving us a chance to love him, making us feel that we have something to give him.

The world does not understand vulnerability. Neediness is rejected as incompetence and compassion is dismissed as unprofitable.

The Spanish author José Ortega puts it this way:

The man with the clear head is the man who frees himself from fantasy and looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost. And this is the simple truth—that to life is to feel oneself lost. The shipwrecked have stood at the still-point of a turning world and discovered that the human heart is made for Jesus Christ and cannot really be content with less. 

We are made for Christ and nothing less will ever satisfy us. As Paul writes in Colossians 1:16, “All things were created by him and for him.” And further on, “There is only Christ: he is everything” (3:11). It is only in Christ that the heart finds true joy in created things.

Do you hear what the shipwrecked are saying? Let go of your paltry desires and expand your expectations. Christmas means that God has given us nothing less than himself and his name is Jesus Christ. Be unwilling next Christmas to settle for anything else. Don’t order “just a piece of toast” when eggs Benedict are on the menu. Don’t come with a thimble when God has nothing less to give you than the ocean of himself. Don’t be contented with a ‘nice’ Christmas when Jesus says, “It has pleased my Father to give you the Kingdom.”

The shipwrecked have little in common with the landlocked. The landlocked have their own security system, a home base, credentials and credit cards, storehouses and barns, their self interest and investments intact. They never find themselves because they never really feel themselves lost. At Christmas, one despairs of finding a suitable gift for the landlocked. “They’re so hard to shop for; they have everything they need.”

The shipwrecked, on the contrary, reach out for that passing plank with the desperation of the drowning. Adrift on an angry sea, in a state of utter helplessness and vulnerability, the shipwrecked never asked what they could do to merit the plank, and inherit the kingdom of dry land. They knew that there was absolutely nothing any of them could do. Like little children, they simply received the plank as a gift. And little children are precisely those who haven’t done anything. “Unless you… become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. They have found the treasure in the field of Bethlehem. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

So here we are at Christmas once again,.

And so, dear friend, it’s time.

Open your heart.

Take some quiet time over the weekend to prepare yourself and be ready receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder.  As you see from Brennan Manning’s wonderful story, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus want to give you.

Try to be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:

”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you.

Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things.
Ask yourself what is the real meaning of life—your life.

For me the answer is to love as best I can, as meager as my life may be in the sunset years of my life.   But I suppose I have some wisdom and compassion to share arising from my own crosses over the years.  But it’s all gift; it’s all grace!

So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you.

May you have a wonderful Christmas with your those you love.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special with whom to share, know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you across these pages. I will remember each of you and your intentions and your needs in my Christmas Masses.

Be sure to open yourself to the holiness—
the wholeness—the peace of this Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype.
It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.

Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we feel like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who are missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way.
We ask you this, Jesus, always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas. Click here.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

The Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – 2018

  While all things were   

      in quiet silence,

And when night was

      in the midst of

   her swift course,

Your Almighty Word,

           O Lord,

Leaped down out

of your royal throne,

                            Alleluia! 

     ~ And the Word became flesh

and lived among us.  John 1:14

Dear Friends,

Our waiting is over.

Christmas is here!

I’m a contemplative, pretty much. I stay home. I have no TV. And I seldom even listen to music. I just crave silence. It’s just me and Shoney and Jesus in at home.

This Advent hasn’t been as fruitful as others for me, yet I hope  what I’ve shared with you it has touched you in some way.  Politics got in the way, I think in the aftermath of the election. I get bombarded with political  emails with organizations that I got involved with and now I find disturbing my peace. But my Advent came just two days ago with one of Pope Benedict’s writings (as Cardinal Ratzinger). I’ll quote it here. The gospel that day was the story about the angel Gabriel appearing to Zechariah in the temple, announcing that he was to bear a son in his old age. He was struck dumb because he didn’t readily accept the angel’s message But Benedict has a different take on it, rather than as a reprimand . . . .

What was Zechariah actually praying for?  He was old and his wife was barren. When the angel promised him a son, he rejected this as something absurd that he did not expect from God., as something that as it were he did not include among the things it made sense to pray for.  From that we can see clearly that for a long time he had no longer prayed for a son but for more than this, for something greater, for what the Bible calls the consolation of Israel, the redemption of the world.

Quite obviously Zechariah belonged to those for whom Luke says when describing the righteous Simeon that they were looking for the consolation of Israel (Lk 2:25). He says the same of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. When Zechariah was young he too would certainly pray for a son. Then the time when he became unimportant and irrelevant to himself and no longer asked for himself; but nor did he lapse into bitterness and fatalism as if the world no longer concerned him and God who had not responded to him, could be indifferent to him. His life had become freer, greater, and richer.  He had trusted in God not less but more, and prayed to him for the divine gift of the salvation of the world . . . . 

Prayer must become a way for ourselves in which gradually we learn to see more. It must not end in us shutting ourselves off in our egoism.  Through prayer we must become freer, take ourselves less and him more seriously, and thus find our way to the real point of prayer: to ask God for the salvation of the world ~ even today. And I might add our country, as I’ve pleaded for years.                                                           (Magnificat liturgical magazine ~ December 2018 issue, p. 288.)    

I am closing out my seventy-fifth year and in the middle of my fiftieth year of priesthood, so perhaps you can understand how Pope Benedict’s thoughts resonated with me, especially since my priestly life has in recent years been mostly interior and I prefer to live in silence in my home most of the time. I do hope as I grow older that I, too, can be content to have a “freer, greater and richer life” if I can deepen my prayer once again.

And so, dear friend, it’s time.

Open your heart.

Take some quiet time over the weekend to prepare yourself and be ready receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder.  You see, Christmas is really not about giving gifts, but about receiving the one that Jesus want to give you

Try to be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:

”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you.

Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things.
Ask yourself what is the real meaning of life—your life.

For me the answer is to love as best I can, as meager as my life may be in the sunset years of my life.   But I suppose I have some wisdom and compassion to share arising from my own crosses over the years.  But it’s all gift; it’s all grace!

So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you.

May you have a wonderful Christmas with your those you love.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special with whom to share, know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you across these pages. I will remember each of you and your intentions and your needs in my Christmas Masses.

Be sure to open yourself to the holiness—
the wholeness—the peace of this Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype.
It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.

Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
May we feel like children again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who are missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way.
We ask you this, Jesus, always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas. Click here. You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

The Birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – 2017

  While all things were   

      in quiet silence,

And when night was

      in the midst of

   her swift course,

Your Almighty Word,

           O Lord,

Leaped down out

of your royal throne,

                            Alleluia! 

     ~ And the Word became flesh

and lived among us.  John 1:14

Dear Friends,

Our waiting is over.

Christmas is here!

And I’m thinking of some close friends as I write this. (With names changed.)

There’s Beth who was 92 last July—alone and lonely because her sweetie from high school and 67 years of marriage took off for heaven.  And yet she has more dates out than I’ve had in five years!

There’s my dear friend Gerry and his wife Martha who’s been struggling with cancer for more years than I can remember; she’s one courageous woman!

And there’s Dorie who sends me at least one Facebook messenger every day, though I don’t have the heart to tell her I don’t read them, though I send this blog to FB, I hardly follow my friends there. (Social media doesn’t much interest this contemplative—though they tell me I should promote my writings more.)

There’s my neighbor Linda who doesn’t want to celebrate Christmas because she misses her own dear one; I wish she would let me provide her some company and lift her spirits.

And there’s 99-year-old Father Gene who has been so kind to me over so many years—understanding my health limitations when few others would. He just lost his sister with whom he was very close.

And there’s my furry friend Shoney, who isn’t very well himself.  But dogs don’t know that; they just love you and keep you company and are always faithful.

I’m a contemplative, pretty much. I stay home. I have no TV. And I seldom even listen to music. I just crave silence. It’s just me and Shoney and Jesus in at home.

This Advent ha been very special for me, and I hope through what I’ve shared with you that it has been for you as well.  I’d like to summarize some of the fruit of my Advent prayer.

Pope Benedict wrote one meditation on John the Baptist that resonated with me . . .

The desert regions were places of temptation, but also where a person acquires a sense of his own poverty, because once deprived of material support and security, one“ understands that the only reference point is God himself.

I’ve had several intense desert experiences in my life, and I’ve been going through one as I approach Christmas this year. These have been experiences of not only physical poverty, but emotional and spiritual as well.  So I asked the Baptist to help me rely more intensely on God, remembering the many times material support and security eluded me.

And actually, this Advent—and this hardship experience—has brought me closer to Christ than I’ve been in years! Why? Because I’ve had to rely on him more radically as I resolve my external affairs.  Relying on Mary’s “Fiat; that is, her eager willingness to respond to the angel I try to make it my own: ”Be it done unto me according to your Word.”

And on the Feast of St. John of the Cross, (Dec. 14th), I took in his words . . .

“Preserve a loving attentiveness to God with no desire to feel or understand any particular thing concerning him.”

And finally, besides the Magnificat  liturgical magazine that I use for the staple of my prayer, I also want to share a bit of one of my “favoritist” meditations of all time from a book of Advent readings called Watch for the Light.  It’s entitled Shipwrecked at the Stable by Brennan Manning. I’ll let him bring us to our final countdown to our Christmas celebration.

The shipwrecked at the stable are the poor in spirit who feel lost in the cosmos, adrift on an open sea, clinging with a life and death desperation to the one solitary plank.  Finally they are washed ashore and make their way to the stable, stripped of the old spirit of possessiveness in regard to anything.

He relates a story of Francis of Assisi talking to his companion Brother Leo. Accept being shipwrecked—and this is my advice also to you, dear reader, on this Christmas Day:  Renounce everything that is heavy, even the weight of your own sins.  See only the compassion , the infinite patience, and the tender Love of Christ Jesus our Lord.

Your guilt and your reproach disappear into the nothingness of non-attention, St. Francis told Brother Leo. You are no longer aware of yourself, like the sparrow aloft and free in the azure sky.  Even the desire for holiness is transformed into a pure and simple desire for Jesus.

And I think that’s where I am, this Christmas 2017.

The shipwrecked at the stable are captivated by joy and wonder. The pearl of great price is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

I believe, says our author, that the single most important consideration during this important season is intensity of desire. Paraphrasing the late Rabbi Abraham Heschel, “Jesus Christ is of no importance unless he is of supreme importance.”

Manning concludes by suggesting that perhaps many of us are in the same position as the Greeks in chapter twelve of John’s Gospel who approached Philip and said, “We would like to see Jesus.”

The question addressed to each one of us this Christmas is:  How badly?

And so, open your heart, dear friend.

Take some quiet time today and tomorrow to prepare yourself and be ready receive the Lord into your heart as if for the first time—in humility and the joy and wonder.

Try to be receptive to God as Mary was. She just said, a simple Yes! to the angel:

”I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word.”

I pray so very earnestly that you receive the special gift God wants to give you.

Cleanse your heart of resentments—of preoccupations with unnecessary things.
Ask yourself what is the real meaning of life—your life.

For me the answer is to love as best I can, as meager as my life may be in the sunset years of my life.   But I suppose I have some wisdom and compassion to share arising from my own crosses over the years.  But it’s all gift; it’s all grace!

So, I hope you have received something nourishing and sweet in the posts I’ve been able to create this Advent. They are my gift to you.

May you have a wonderful Christmas with your those you love.
And if your Christmas is lonely with no one really special with whom to share, know that you have someone here who understands and who reaches out to you across these pages. I will remember each of you and your intentions and your needs in my Christmas Masses.

Be sure to open yourself to the holiness—
the wholeness—the peace of this Christmas.
It is there beneath all the craziness and hype.
It is yours if you seek it and ask for it.

Dearest Lord Jesus,
O how wonderful you are to me—to us.
I feel like a child again for you said
that we must be childlike before the Father
and you called him Abba—Daddy.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jesus,
for my priesthood, for my home
for the food on my table,
for my little furry friend Shoney,
for you my readers and so much more!
Please bless my friends and readers,
especially those who have missing a loved one this year,
or who are lonely or sick or in need in any way.
We ask you this, Jesus, always,
in union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERYONE!

Now, before you go, here is a very special Christmas music video for you. Click here. Be sure to turn up your speakers and enter full screen.

If you would like the Scripture readings for any of the several Masses for Christmas. Click here.You’ll find a list of the Vigil, Mass at Night, at Dawn, etc.; click on the one(s) you want.

With love,

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer