Monday, December 24, 2018

Father Riley's homily from December 23, 2018 and news for you

News for you!
...Father Riley will lead us in Holy Eucharist at our Christmas Eve service at 5pm. Archdeacon Bette Kauffman will be assisting Father Riley for the Christmas Eve service!  Please join us and invite others

…Mrs. Jane Barnett will lead us in Morning Prayer Sundays at 10am Dec 30 and Jan 6.  Father Riley will return to lead us in Holy Eucharist Sundays Jan 13, 20; 27th.  Our annual congregational meeting will follow our service on Jan 20th. 

ADVENT IV - C - 18                       LUKE 1. 39-55

The fourth week of Advent the scene shifts from one of the Jordan River where John Baptist is preaching repentance and baptizing as a means of preparing God’s people for the coming of the Messiah, to a small village in the Judean hill country where the Blessed Virgin Mary makes a visit to her cousin Elizabeth who, in her old age is pregnant with John Baptist.

Yes, today the liturgical clock runs backwards. The little season of Advent tends to do just that. We began four weeks ago, you may recall with Jesus as Messiah prophesying about the end of time and our need to be prepared for the judgment of God that will accompany it.

Then, for the past two weeks, we have been introduced to John Baptist as the forerunner of Christ. First, the man, echoing Isaiah’s prophetic call to make straight a pathway for God and then his message of repentance as a means of doing so.

Today the focus is on Mary, the one chosen by God to be the mother of his Son, Jesus, and Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s exclamation of her blessedness. What if Mary had said no to God? Would God have simply chosen another? He didn’t have to.  God knew when he chose this young Jewish maiden that she would say “yes.”

Outwardly, there was nothing to commend her to God. As any of us would be, she was afraid when the angel suddenly appeared to her and announced that she would bear the Christ child. She did not hide her inability to understand how it could be. However, once the angel explained to her that the Holy Spirit of God would overshadow her, she willingly gave her consent.

Mary was not divine but purely human even though what was to happen to her was nothing less than a divine action. She humbled herself before the angel who addressed her as blessed in her response to the his announcement. And again, as she received veneration from her cousin Elizabeth, who like Gabriel, called her blessed in acknowledging her as the mother of her Lord.

Mary’s humility is evident in her song. It describes how she feels about herself and about God who has chosen her to be the vessel of His grace.  Her response is called the Magnificat from the first word of the song in Latin.

It is one of the oldest hymns in the church. It is one of the most famous songs in Christianity. It has been whispered in monasteries, chanted in cathedrals, recited in small remote churches by evening candlelight, and set to music with trumpets and kettledrums by Johann Sebastian Bach.

It is the gospel before the gospel, a song of triumph 30 weeks before Bethlehem, 30 years before Calvary and Easter. And it is all because of Jesus who has only just been conceived, not yet born, but who has made Elizabeth’s baby leap for joy in her womb and has caused Mary to sing with excitement, hope and triumph.

It is a song that comes from the heart of Mary. Her response reveals why God knew when he chose her she would say “yes.” In it, Mary ascribes the miracle of the incarnation to God, and not to herself, showing both deep humility and the knowledge that God is the source of all grace.

Almost every word is a biblical quotation such as Mary would have known from childhood. Much of it echoes the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2, the song which celebrated the birth of Samuel and all that God was going to do through him. Now these two mothers-to-be celebrate together what God is going to do through their sons John and Jesus.

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth is a wonderful human portrait of the older woman, pregnant at last after hope was gone, and the younger one, pregnant far sooner than she had expected. Their meeting causes the babe in Elizabeth’s womb to leap with joy at the voice of Mary. Elizabeth’s reaction to that is to acknowledge Mary’s blessedness because she will be the mother of her Lord.

Underneath all of it is a celebration of God. God has taken the initiative. God is the ultimate reason to celebrate. Through the Incarnation, God reigns over all. Mary, then, holds a special place in the life of the Church.

She is not worshipped, as some might protest, rather, she is venerated because of her role in the divine drama and of her willingness to participate in it. She believed what God told her would come true as announced through the mouth of his angelic messenger. Her visit to Elizabeth confirms it.

In her “Yes” to God, Mary remains an example of faithfulness, trust, and acceptance to all who call themselves Christians.

What Mary has done is similar to what the letter to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus himself has done. He has come into the world to do God’s will. The true prayer offered by Christians is the constant striving to respond to God’s will. Mary’s offering of self to the will of God is what makes her blessed. It is what a human being is supposed to be.

Just as Mary’s visit fills Elizabeth to the brim with joy, so the Lord’s own encounter with us does the same thing. Why? Because Jesus is our way of doing God’s will by self-sacrificing love. This is the way we say “yes” to God.

It is that offering of self-sacrificing love that we celebrate in every Holy Eucharist. Our joy is only as real, however, as we make our self-offering to God in our daily living, for that is our response to the will of God for us to be blessed, to be true human beings.

The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth is a constant reminder that the Lord has come to meet us. That is what we celebrate in this season of Advent, and what we look forward to celebrating with special joy in the up coming feasts of Christmas and Epiphany. So that when He comes, He may find in us a mansion prepared for himself. AMEN+

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