by Maartje Skare-Hessels
What are we expecting to receive this Christmas?
The answer one tends to hear is of course Jesus, the child Jesus who we are supposed to receive in our hearts.
But do we? Do we know how to? Do we have the capacity in order to do so? Do we have the faith to accept Him into our hearts?
The Messiah was announced over and over again to the people of Israel and yet when the angel told Zechariah that He would come, he did not believe him: Luke 1: 13: ‘Your prayer is heard.’ He was, together with those outside the inner temple, praying for the coming of the Messiah ) If Zechariah, who was righteous before God and obedient to his commandments and blameless (Luke 1:6) could not believe his prayer for the Messiah has been answered, how could we possibly who are far from blameless.
When Gabriel announces to Mary she would conceive a son she listened, listened properly, with an open curious mind and more importantly an open heart. She was able to receive this Word coming from God and because of this, because she believed, this Word was made flesh and God was with us. Emmanuel. She listened and gave her ascent to the Holy will of God – she asks how this may come about but once an explanation (however improbable to our human understanding) has been given she believes this word given to her and says ‘behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’
No fallen human person could receive Him though and God knew from all eternity that His mother would have to be special – she, by the power of the cross, would have to be immaculate and pure at heart yet free in order to receive Him. This shows our inability to believe and to receive Him as we are all born with original sin and we cannot believe, we cannot hope and we cannot love as God would have us. In His infinite mercy He gave us Mary – Jesus gave her to us at the foot of the cross. Through her and in her we can believe and we, with her, can conceive of the Holy Spirit. Jesus can become incarnate in us. In her we can be purified and become like God’s image and likeness as God created us. So this Christmas let us ask for her Faith, her Hope and Her Love so Jesus can truly be born in our hearts in hers!
An annunciation is given in this time of Christmas to us all
The angel Gabriel comes to tell us our Saviour will be born. I am like Zechariah in the sense that I can’t believe what I am being told yet wanting to believe I place myself in Mary’s heart and in her and with her I can believe and receive the good news. With the grace of God and His gift of his mother to me I can pray the angelus.
An angel appeared unto Mary (His Word reaches me through the gospel) and she conceived of the Holy Spirit. ( I receive the Holy Spirit in her heart.)
Behold the handmaid of the Lord (in her heart I feel safe and humble saying these words to the Lord) “Let it be done unto me according to thy Word”. (A confidence which comes not from me but from her faith and hope and love. Any word given to me in her will be for the greater Glory of God and for my greater Good so I need not fear.)
And the Word became flesh (in her heart I am purified by the HS and become ever more like Christ) and dwelt among us. (Christ, who shares our human nature and has made us divine , lives in me and thus still dwells among all people.)
Our God has one great vulnerability
Our God has one great vulnerability which he shows us today in the manner of his birth as a baby in a manger – the Lord bares His Holy arm ( Isaiah 52:9) ; the child Jesus who is to save us from our sins on the cross is born as a perfect copy of his nature (Hebrews 1:2) This Son, who is nearest to the Fathers heart, has made known the Father (John 1:18) A Father who loves us so much he gave us freedom to reject Him. This makes him utterly vulnerable! Lying in the manger with outstretched arms like on the cross He wants to envelop us in His embrace for us to share His life and love with Him. It is up to us to enact our will, to make that choice on which our whole life depends – to throw ourselves into this embrace of the child Jesus and also join him in his embrace of the cross – to make ourselves completely vulnerable as He did. To love our God and our neighbor with that same vulnerability- with the risk of being rejected. He is the Word made flesh who has given us his words – who has made himself totally known through the words of the bible. They allow us to know Him and to receive his Holy Spirit as they are life and spirit themselves. It our choice as well to open this book and listen to Him – here as well it depends on our freedom. Here as well He makes himself vulnerable. But as he said it today’s reading – to all who did accept him He gave power to become children of God!