Beloved Members of St. Martin’s,
This weekend we have a flurry of activity here at St. Martin’s. On Saturday at 505pm and Sunday morning at 10:30, we observe the fourth and final Sunday in Advent. We then shift to Christmas eve services on Sunday evening. I know we are all looking forward to our fabulous Children’s Pageant at 5 pm’s Family Eucharist, and our traditional Festive Choral Eucharist, which begins with carols led by the choir at 7:15 pm before the Eucharist proper begins at 8 pm. We then truly launch the twelve days of the Christmas season with Monday’s Christmas Day Eucharist. This is a more laid-back affair to lure you from your cozy homes—we invite you to wear you Christmas sweaters and/or PJs and celebrate the real reason for the season: the birth of Jesus, God-With-Us, the Incarnate One.
That focus on the Incarnation with all its rich meaning for us in the holy way we are called to live our lives is why I hope you make a point of worshiping at either the 505 on Saturday or on Sunday at 10:30. The gospel text for Advent 4 contains one of the most awe-inspiring encounters in the gospels: the Annunciation of Gabriel to Mary, followed by Mary’s stirring song of faith and praise known as the Magnificat. It’s fitting that the season of Advent this year reminds us that Jesus, as revolutionary as he was, was his mother’s son. As God in human flesh, Jesus came by his faithfulness, and his boldness naturally.
Why is this important? Because, as Jesus reminds us repeatedly throughout the gospels, Jesus does not come to live among us solely to be worshipped, but rather, and more importantly to be the exemplar of how we are called to live and act. Jesus lives among us as fully human and fully God to open to each of us the way to live a God-centered life. And God is alongside us, to help us, as we affirm in our baptismal covenant’s promises.
The Incarnation reminds us: We are not called to be spectators. We are called to be participants in God’s divine plan for human flourishing. That’s true worship—a way of living that changes the world, with God’s help.
That’s why Mary is asked, rather than commanded, to participate in her role as the Mother of God. Her own Magnificat is a full-throated celebration of how she sees God’s dream for the human family, and how her participation is a blessing. This is why it is so useful to pray the O Antiphons in the week leading up to Christmas Eve, by the way. The Incarnation is the counterpoint to the death-dealing systems that spring forth whenever humanity forgets that it is called into partnership with God, starting from being made in the image of God and through the yearly celebration of God coming to live among us as one of us so that we may be inspired to join in God’s saving work on earth.
Mary’s courage can be our own. This year, may we all live so that our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord, and our spirits rejoice in God, our Savior, who has looked with favor on us, his lowly servants.