We are nearly to Christmas now – the day we remember the amazing love of God, that He would consent to be born a human being, out of His great love for us. What a crazy idea! This is the same God that came down in fire and smoke on Horeb – a sight and sound so terrifying that the Israelites begged not to have to see or hear it anymore, but to have a prophet speak to them instead. But as Mary says in our gospel lesson, God is mindful of the humble state of his servant(s), and treats us gently in our weakness. It is beyond our comprehension that God would come down into our humanity to suffer and die for us; that He loves us that much even though we don’t deserve it. Though we cannot understand such great love, we can rejoice in it nonetheless, and extend the same gentleness to those around us. The Lord is near!
The Old Testament lesson is from the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 18, verses 15-19:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”
The Lord said to me: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.
The Epistle lesson is from Philippians, chapter 4, verses 4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
The Gospel for the fourth Sunday in Advent is from Luke, chapter 1, verses 39-56:
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
The Visitation – Mary and Elizabeth in the Garden of a Country House,
in Huth Hours, illustrated by Simon Marmion (15th cent.) [Public domain]