FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT (December 23, 2018)

On the cover of an issue of TIME MAGAZINE, a beautiful, dark-eyed toddler rides on her big sister’s shoulders. Marissa Ayala was conceived in the hope of being a tissue match; only a bone marrow transplant could save the life of her elder sister from leukemia

Marissa did not offer to come into this world to experience the pain of surgery for another. There is no doubt why Marissa was conceived: she is a “b.r.v.” - a “biological re-supply vehicle.” If there is no match, the plan was to abort and try again.

In today’s Gospel, we hear of two pregnancies. We hear in the second reading: “you… prepared a body for me… here I am; I have come to do your will, O God.”

There is no doubt why Jesus was conceived either. This infant Jesus was conceived not for saving one life, but for saving millions of his brothers and sisters by showing them how to live, what it means to be fully human and fully alive.

We may tend our sorrows, silently and in private, but good news aches to be shared with one who will rejoice with us. Jesus is good news, and Mary hastens to share her good news with her cousin, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth responds in a way that surely exceeded Mary’s expectation. Before Mary says hello, Elizabeth asks, “Who am that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” There are few words recorded from this meeting. Those who look for scripture sources speaking against abortion often cite Elizabeth’s calling Mary “mother of my Lord” so soon after the annunciation. Both Elizabeth and Mary recognize each other’s place in God’s plan of salvation and together they share the joy that comes from that knowledge.

Before we celebrate Christmas, we need to stop and remind ourselves who this baby is:

· Truly human - fragile flesh that develops understanding as he increases in wisdom and age and grace, just as we have done;

· Truly divine - stripped of glory to dwell in our midst and show us the way.

He is, in the prophetic words of the first reading, peace. He is not judgment, not condemnation, not vindication of our ways over others’, but an offer of peace when we are rooted in him. Peace among all peoples, all families, all friends.

Jesus has taken flesh, not only in Mary’s womb, but also in our own selves. We carry him with us and we - male and female - give birth to him in a world which questions whether Jesus and many an expected child is really good news.

If we really believe that this pregnancy, Mary’s and ours, is good news, can we keep it secret any less than Mary? Shall we let anyone who will listen know that the child who has taken flesh in us is god’s own? That the child born to give life to all our brothers and sisters, is peace for our troubled world?

This morning we gather at this table for a life-saving ‘transplant.’ Here, Jesus gives us his word and gives us his body and blood as real food. Here, we, in turn, become his body to go forth from our celebration and give life to the world that hungers for him - even when they do not realize it.

When and if the opportunity presents itself -- as when we hear the politically correct “happy holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas” -- will we acknowledge Jesus as the reason for the season? Let’s not miss the opportunity.