Advent Reflections for Praise & Worship

The Annunciation

Verses 30-33 30The angel said,  ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’

The Annunciation of the Lord celebrates the angel Gabriel's appearance to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), his announcement that the Blessed Virgin had been chosen to be the Mother of Our Lord, and Mary's fiat—her willing acceptance of God's holy plan.

The Archangel Gabriel, God's Messenger is sent to a young virgin who is betrothed.  He greets her saying, "Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you."  FULL OF GRACE and THE LORD IS WITH YOU.  Mary trembles at the extravagance of this greeting and is troubled.  The angel himself is awed because He is aware of what God is asking of her.  He knows that God the Father waits in humility for His daughter Mary, whom He has fashioned free from original sin, this masterpiece of His creation, to willingly and freely give her consent to His Divine Plan. 


When we reflect on the Annunciation to Mary, and her acceptance of the angel’s message, we also reflect on our own vocation — our own calling from God. In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” — an echo of Mary’s “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Each time we commit ourselves to embracing God’s call and accepting His will, we mark a new point on the path of our relationship with Him. For the rest of her life, Mary pondered her extraordinary encounter with God, turning the weight of the angel’s message over and over again in her heart. From the manger to the cross, Mary’s life was radically changed — her relationship with God profoundly deepened — the moment she said “Yes.”
Mary received and welcomed God’s Word in the fullest sense — becoming impregnated with it, and bearing it to the world. Angels might not appear in our doorsteps, but we do encounter God in each of our daily prayers, and he whispers to us a similar invitation: Will we accept His love and bring it joyously to those around us? Will we trust in His providence, even when we can’t see the path ahead? Amid the noise of everyday life, will we listen for and embrace his call?
Mary, Mother of the “Yes,” you listened to Jesus, and know the tone of his voice and the beating of his heart. Morning Star, speak to us of him, and tell us about your journey of following him on the path of faith.

The Visitation 

Luke 1:39-41
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 
After announcing the mystery of the Incarnation, the archangel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth, her old and seemingly sterile cousin, would be a mother in three months’ time by a new prodigy. Mary quickly set out to congratulate the happy future mother. The trip was not inspired by any human sentiments. Mary possessed within her, with Jesus, all the wealth and joys of heaven. That was enough for her and a personal need did not move her heart, but a duty of fraternal charity presented itself to her; she simply saw an opportunity to exercise her zeal and glorify God by accomplishing this duty.
The Holy Spirit inspired Mary and the meeting between the two expectant mothers, especially the two children they bore, was a providential plan. Mary made haste, she exposed herself to the fatigue of a long journey, she climbed mountains, and soon she reached the end of her journey. How wonderful! Mary and Elizabeth have hardly been together long before Elizabeth’s infant leaps in her womb, and she herself, filled with the Holy Spirit, embraced Mary and exclaimed:  "You are blessed among all women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"
The Church borrowed these words for the Hail Mary, which has become one of the most beautiful Christian prayers. These words have resounded everywhere and over the centuries! Thus, Jesus’ mission began before His birth; He sanctified John the Baptist in his mother’s womb, because by leaping with joy John announced the Prophet who foretells of his God, and the Precursor which recognizes the Savior.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary sang the beautiful song of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, celebrating in heavenly language the wonders God has done for her. All the echoes of time and eternity will repeat this song forever.


There are two aspects of today’s Visitation scene to consider. The first is that any element of personal agenda of Mary and Elizabeth is put aside. Both had good reason to be very preoccupied with their pregnancies and all that new life brings. Both women had a right to focus on themselves for a while as they made new and radical adjustments to their daily lives.
Mary reaches out to her kinswoman to help her and also to be helped by her. These two great biblical women consoled each another, shared their stories, and gave each other the gift of themselves in the midst of the new life that they must have experienced: Elizabeth after her long years of barrenness and now sudden pregnancy, and Mary, after her meeting with the heavenly messenger, and her “irregular” marriage situation and pregnancy.
The second point to consider is Mary’s quick response and movement. Luke tells us that she undertook “in haste” the long and perilous trek from Nazareth to a village in the hill country of Judea. She knew clearly what she wanted and did not allow anyone or anything to stop her.
The story of the Visitation teaches us an important lesson: When Christ is growing inside of us, we will be led to people, places and situations that we never dreamed of. We will bear words of consolation and hope that are not our own. In the very act of consoling others, we will be consoled. We will be at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life and issues seem to be, from them Christ is forming himself.
The women of today’s Gospel show us that it is possible to move beyond our own little, personal agendas and engage in authentic ministry and service in the Church. Ministry and service are not simply doing things for others. Authentic Christian ministers and servants allow themselves to serve and be served, taught, cared for, consoled and loved. Such moments liberate us and enable us to sing Magnificat along the journey, and celebrate the great things that God does for us and His people.
Consider these words of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997): “In the mystery of the Annunciation and the Visitation, Mary is the very model of the life we should lead. First of all, she welcomed Jesus in her existence; then, she shared what she had received. Every time we receive Holy Communion, Jesus the Word becomes flesh in our life — gift of God who is at one and the same time beautiful, kind, unique.

 The Nativity

6While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. 7And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. - Luke 2:6-7

 Mary shares in her Son's redeeming mission. She experiences childbirth in a condition of extreme poverty: she cannot give the Son of God even what mothers usually offer a newborn baby; instead, she has to lay him "in a manger", an improvised cradle which contrasts with the dignity of the "Son of the Most High".
 The Gospel notes that "there was no place for them in the inn" (Lk 2:7). This statement, recalling the text in John's Prologue: "His own people received him not" (Jn 1:11), foretells as it were the many refusals Jesus will meet with during his earthly life. The phrase "for them" joins the Son and the Mother in this rejection, and shows how Mary is already associated with her Son's destiny of suffering and shares in his redeeming mission.
The shepherds’ spontaneous desire to make known what "had been told them concerning this child" (Lk 2:17), after the wondrous experience of meeting the Mother and her Son, suggests to evangelizers in every age the importance and, even more, the necessity of a deep spiritual relationship with Mary, in order to know Jesus better and to become the joyful proclaimers of his Gospel of salvation.
In the Advent Liturgy we read the prophecies concerning Jesus’ arrival.  He is the hope of all people through the ages and we are filled with longing as we wait in anticipation for Christmas and we are filled with joy for God has visited His people.  

Although we are unworthy Jesus comes into our soul faithfully in every Eucharist and we each experience a little Christmas and God becomes incarnate in our heart.


The Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord is an opportunity for each of us to evaluate how well we are incarnating God’s love. If we find that we are not the perfect image of God (that would be all of us!), then we must ask ourselves, “In what ways do I need to allow God to transform me into His image?” The answer usually falls into one of these three categories: fasting (making room for God), prayer (inviting Him in) and almsgiving (offering the blessings I receive—and myself—in love). This is why the Church wisely appoints this time of Advent in the liturgical year as a penitential period. In whatever way we observe this liturgical season, the important thing is to ensure that it is a time of preparation. We need to make room for God in order for Him to abide in us and transform us into Himself. In this way, we can each incarnate God’s love for all those we encounter.

If faith consists, in part, of a real encounter with God, then by making Him known through our own beings, we are bringing into the world the opportunity for faith. Jesus was born into the world in a stable—the most common and ordinary of places. We can bring Him into the world in the most ordinary of places too, such as a grocery store.
As we contemplate the face of Christ, it is also essential and indispensable to affirm that the Word truly “became flesh” and took on every aspect of humanity except sin. Yet from another perspective the Incarnation of Christ is truly a kenosis – a “self-emptying” of the glory and divinity he possessed as the Son of God from all eternity. As John Paul II states, this truth may be more problematic for our own modern culture of rationalism as it has the tendency to deny the faith in the divinity of Christ.
The Incarnation of Christ, his becoming human, lays the foundation in our society for a vision of the human person which moves beyond the limitations and contradictions of this world and places us in relationship with God. This is another gift of the Incarnation. The gift of the human person created in the image of God and redeemed through Christ is the eternal message and gift of Christmas.


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