FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT + DECEMBER 19, 2021
PRAYER OF THE DAY
Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. Your abundant grace and might frees us from the sin that binds us, so we may receive you in joy and serve you always, for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
A READING FROM THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET MICAH 5:2-5
But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has brought forth; then the rest of his kindred shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall live secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth; and he shall be the one of peace.
WE WILL PRAY LUKE 1 RESPONSIVELY
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
you, the Almighty, have done great things for me and holy is your name.
You have mercy on those who fear you, from generation to generation.
You have shown strength with your arm and scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones and lifting up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid of your servant Israel, to remember the promise of mercy,
the promise made to our forbears, to Abraham and his children forever.
A READING FROM THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS 10:5-10
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
THIS IS THE HOLY GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. LUKE 1:39-55
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
With the enormous advances of science, especially in prenatal care, we have gained the ability to peer into the womb both diagnostically and curatively, and to raise the expectations of both maternal and fetal health and well being to heretofore unimagined levels. We hope for the day when they will be universally available and graciously received. But in all of our progress, we may well have lost the simple, yet miraculous phenomena that Mary and Elizabeth experienced at their fateful meeting: quickening. In their time, a woman spent the first trimester and part of the second anxious and fearful about her pregnancy and her child, until at four or five months duration, she felt the first flutters of life, as her baby’s movements became strong enough to experience in and through her body. Now she could be certain that her child was alive, and cherish a glimmer of hope that her perilous journey of bringing new life into the world would be blessed. When her child “leaped for joy” at the approach of the unborn Jesus, within Mary, Elizabeth understood that even in her old age, God had gifted her too with new life. In their story, we find that we too may experience this “quickening,” in anticipation of the life that grows within each of us. A new life of grace, in which God’s vision for humanity is alive and kicking, gathering strength, moving inexorably toward fulfillment, and blessing us with hope for our future as the Kingdom of God, in which all that has been tainted by sin, all that has been threatened, oppressed, fragmented, disenfranchised, marginalized, and hopeless now thrives. But just as with the mothers of old, we must be still and aware, alert to the signs and watchful for God’s gift. I pray you will take a few moments of quiet time each day, to marvel at the growing Light and Life of Christ within you, and be quickened with hope. Amen