Life & Soul

The promise of Advent embraces us all

The Annunciation by Eugène Delacroix (1798-1863)

As Christmas and the New Year approach, we are full of worthy intentions. During these closing days of Advent we are reminded that what the Father proposes for us reaches far beyond anything that our good intentions might achieve.

Long ago, the young King David had proposed that he build a magnificent Temple to become a dwelling place for his God. The prophet responded that God had no need of a dwelling place fashioned by human hands. The people themselves would become God’s Temple. King David and his successors would become sons to the Father.

The promise of Advent, fulfilled long ago in the birth of Jesus as the Son of David and Son of God, embraces us all. In Christ, the Son of God, we become God’s living temple.

St Luke’s account of the Annunciation touches us all. The Angel Gabriel greeted Mary as highly favoured and living in the presence of God. As sinners, we feel such a greeting to be far beyond us. We long for God’s favour and the comfort of his presence, but we fear that our sin distances us from such a hope.

At the Annunciation, Mary heard the angel’s greeting not only for herself, but for the whole of sinful humanity. Her reservations put into words the doubts that distance us from God. She was deeply disturbed and wondered what such a greeting might mean.

What had been promised to Mary came not from herself, but from the power of God at work within her. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow, and so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God.”

Let us believe, with Mary, that what God can bring about in our lives rests not in our own achieving, but in what God’s power fashions us to become. Let us open our hearts to Advent’s promise that, through Mary’s Son, we also are enabled to become the dwelling place of God.

This article first appeared in the Catholic Herald magazine (19/12/14)