Carry the Word with you
First reading of the day:
The LORD spoke to Ahaz: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
Gospel reading of the day:
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Reflection on the readings: God is tricky: the Lord of surprise and master of the expected. When Isaiah uttered his prophecy, he almost certainly did not appreciate the deepest meaning of what he was saying; he was telling Ahaz that God was faithful and a new king, Ahaz’s son Hezekiah, was to be born. But the words echoed in a small town of Galilee centuries later when a young girl said yes to God’s plan. God is the God of the big picture. Pointillism is a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of color are applied in patterns to form an image. When viewed close up, the points are indecipherable, but viewed at a distance, the painting is intelligible and full of meaning. God is the great pointillist. Isaiah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Mary, you, me–we are dots of color on this huge canvas God is painting. What we shall become is only to be revealed at a distance: we cannot know now what surprise God is creating. Advent is the season of expectancy: what we are waiting for is coming but all we can know is that it will surprise us when it arrive.