The Fourth Sunday of Advent
[Scripture Readings: 2Sam. 7:1-5, 8b-11, 16; Rom. 16: 25-27; Lk. 1: 16-38]
It is characteristic of Luke’s gospel, especially in the passages leading up to Jesus’ birth, to situate the events in his narrative in a particular time, at a particular place, and happening to particular people. God’s word is not an impersonal message addressed to the human race in general. The Word of God, the second person of the Trinity, did not become human in general. He entered human history in the days of Herod king of Judea. He was born in Israel. His parents were Mary and Joseph. In becoming one of us Christ took on all the limitations of human existence except sin.
A second characteristic of Luke’s narrative is that he contrasts what would be considered the important features of power and prestige with the humble circumstances through which God achieves his purposes. Israel was certainly not an important center of the Roman Empire. Nazareth was not even an important city in Israel. Nathaniel’s question whether anything good could come from Nazareth may well have expressed a common opinion. Mary and Joseph were of the peasant class, looked down on by both the Romans and the Jewish aristocracy. In his incarnation Christ accepted the limitations of this particular nation and this particular family at this particular time.This is not something new in God’s way of acting in the world. God seems to be at pains to demonstrate Moses’ words in the book of Deuteronomy: It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the Lord loves you.
This gives us a perspective on ourselves. We are not simply instances of human nature in general. We have our particular histories with our strengths and weaknesses, with our successes and failures. We might want to deny, or at least forget our weaknesses and the failures, yet God chose us knowing them. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; and he chose us as we are! In becoming one with us God showed us that life does not consist in trying to escape from the limitations of a normal, human existence, but in accepting our limitations, whether they are from culture, genetic endowment, family background or our own decisions. Life comes from love and God’s love prevails through any and all historical circumstances.
The light of God’s love is able to shine through whatever we might consider the limitations of our lives to be. God offers himself to us in love. With Mary as our model for accepting God’s love, let us offer ourselves to God in love.