Fourth Sunday of Advent

It is a rainy Sunday morning in England as I write this, first morning of a Christmas mission trip. Remote hints of Christianity filter through the sensual music piped into stores. A host of drunken young people in Santa Claus costumes filled the parks of London yesterday afternoon. What had been England seems to keep disappearing before the waves of an immigrating empire. And yet – the parking lot of a lone Catholic church, St. John Fisher, in a humble suburb, was full to overflowing this gray, rainy morning. Hearts are hungry.

Always new: the Annunciation of the angel is always new. The coming of Christ into the world is never captured, let alone exhausted, by any form, either that of the high culture – like Handel’s Messiah to which I am listening as I write – or of the mass culture, which is always really about one thing: money and what it can buy.

We turn to God from the darkness and despair of this fallen, lost world, but He has first turned toward us, giving us a mother, one “full of grace.” Just when we are tempted to despair of this world, and all its inhabitants, the eternal freshness of the angel’s greeting, and of Mary’s surprised response comes to refresh our hearts and souls. This is the only news that has ever been new: the rest of it is the same, sad story of this fallen world. And yet, in the mid-winter darkness, beneath the wet and sodden leaves, something from out of this world, something of a freshness we could never have imagined is stirring. Let us praise – and magnify – God for it!

December 21st, 2014