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The four weeks of Advent, which will soon draw to a close, are like a snapshot, a miniature, a glimpse of the whole of salvation history.

The themes of the past four weeks like watch and pray … prepare the way of the Lord ...God our Savior and Messiah is at hand ... Emmanuel, God with us … all alert us to the primary event in human history: the Word became Flesh – Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary – who dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory again and again.

It was the great philosopher St. Anselm who once wrote: “without God’s Son, nothing exists; without Mary’s Son, nothing can be redeemed.”

Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI taught us: “If we are to be continually lighting candles of humanity, giving hope and joy to a dark world, we can only do so by lighting them from the light of God, Incarnate … from the light of Christ we are to light the flame of a new humanity, caring for the persecuted, the poor, the little ones” of this world of ours.

There it is, the message of Advent and Christmas to follow: light, hope, joy and love. This is what Jesus’ presence brings in Mary’s womb as she greets her kinswoman Elizabeth, in Christ’s humble birth, throughout his life and in the Church he established.   

This time of the year presents us, as Christians, with a great opportunity and a great realization: from the beginning of human history the God who has created us has continued to surprise us as he reaches out in love. And it is in God’s love that we encounter the gift and grace of his Son.

The Holy Season of Advent has focused on the circumstances leading up to the first coming of Jesus at Christmas which sets the pattern for his coming to us now and at the end of time. The Gospel of St. Luke on this fourth Sunday of Advent stresses the central importance and role of Mary in the work of our salvation.

The Scriptures throughout these past four weeks describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, called “the Son of David.” They also tell us that God's revelation of the coming of Jesus was full of surprises, that David would have a long line of royal descendants culminating with a final king, Jesus Christ.

St. Luke’s Gospel surprises us by telling us that this King would be born to an ordinary virgin, not by means of an intimate physical relationship, but through the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus would be a descendant of David. This would occur through Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband and the “legal” father of her son, as Joseph was "of the house of David." The Gospel narrative surprises us also by reminding us that God’s promise is best fulfilled not in buildings, or even great kings like Solomon, but rather in humble souls like Mary, who trusted in God’s promise.  Thus, the unfolding of God's plan of salvation through history has contained many surprises.

From our vantage point now, some 2000 years after Christ, the surprises we still encounter take on a different tone. The events of Christmas themselves don’t surprise us, we know them well – but the effect they still have on people can surprise: the Christmas story can melt the hardest of hearts, can bring people together, can inspire people to be more generous, more kind, more thoughtful … and why is that?

It is not the jingle bells and evergreen wreaths for sure … it is the Christ who is behind it all, the “reason for the season” as they say. That God has reached out; that God gave us his only Son, born of Mary, raised by Joseph; that his only Son, gave up his life for us; that his Holy Spirit fills us; that our baptism and life in Christ and the Church makes us different. The ways that happens still surprise … and they are the wonder of this season and time of year and they last beyond Christmas day. 

The final Gospel readings of Advent end with recognition and rejoicing of what is to be forever: God among us. Is there greater light? Hope? Joy? Love? We are all called to these things – but they can only happen if we believe and hear the Word of God … and trust it. 

Let the spirit of Mary’s “yes” be in each one of us so that Jesus’ presence might never leave us. Nothing is impossible with God. We must have that kind of faith and trust if Christmas is to mean anything.