Nathanael at least knew of Nazareth while ancient historians didn’t mention the town at all. In fact it was a little place which at the time of Jesus was overshadowed by the growing Roman city of Sepphoris on the other side of the hill. However the inconspicuous village of Nazareth was the place where heaven and earth were closely connected as we could hear in the Gospel.
On this last Sunday of Advent, which this year is also Christmas’ Eve, before our churches will be ornamentally decorated and will burst with worshippers we pause to reflect on what happened nine months prior to the first Christmas.
In an old Church in Germany there is a big fresco of the Annunciation. It captures the visit of Gabriel to the Virgin Mary but it also depicts the heaven above. However the heaven looks as it had stopped. The angels dropped their harps and trumpets, the saints and prophets stopped their songs of praise. They all look down waiting for an answer from a young girl from Nazareth.
My dear Sisters and Brothers! Someone asked: ‘What did Jesus do for people?’ In our utilitarian society we can be tempted to overlook that quite event from today’s Gospel. What Jesus did for people was to become one of us. God the Father did not sent Gabriel with a scroll containing a recipe for immortality or a vaccination for all diseases. Instead our Heavenly Father loved the world so much that, as Jesus was to tell Nicodemus one dark night: ‘God gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.’ That only Son of God upon his conception in the womb of the sinless Virgin Mary made her a new dwelling for God on earth. It wasn’t exhibited by fanfares or royal robes. However it was exhibited by how closely Mary’s thinking reflected that of Jesus. At the end of the Gospel passage for this Sunday we read that Mary described herself as: ‘the handmaid of the Lord.’ Her divine Son later was to tell his disciples at the Last Supper: ‘The Son of Man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ In Mary we can see that what the prophet Isaiah, in the old days, told the people on behalf of God: ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways’ began to change. Mary was the first of the many to come, who because of their love, faith and trust in Jesus thought in the ways of God. She was also the first of the many to come, who because of their love, faith and trust in Jesus, would walk in the ways of God. From the Gospel we discover that after the angel left her Mary, ‘the handmaid of the Lord,’ the living Ark of the presence of God, she set out to do her service to the Lord by serving her old relative Elisabeth.
My Dear fellow Christians! None of us was born sinless like Mary. However we have been baptised to have in us this divine life. None of us, I believe, has had a visit from the angel Gabriel to bring us Good News of Jesus coming to our lives. However we have had the Good News announced so many times as we listen to the Scriptures and homilies. This is our annunciation to conform our thoughts and ways to God’s thoughts and ways.
In our utilitarian and religiously apprehensive society we are called to be disciples of Jesus who evaluate what they see in the light of God’s word. We do not run away from our society. We share it but we do not share the ideas and trends which oppose the God’s plans for his people. In the Scriptures we hear God speak: ‘I know what plans I have in mind for you, plans for peace not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’
Before I see you at a Christmas Mass I would like to pray for you so that your time with the New Born Saviour may result in you having God’s thoughts as your thoughts too, doing God’s ways as your ways too.
See you tonight or tomorrow.