2 Samuel 7:1-5,8b-12,14a,16
The Lord promises David that he will raise from his descendents a kingdom that will endure forever.
A prayer of praise to the Lord for his faithfulness to his covenant.
Paul praises God for making his revelation known.
The angel Gabriel visits Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.
Background on the Gospel Reading
This Sunday we read the story of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary about the birth of Jesus. This story is found only in Luke’s Gospel. On this fourth Sunday of Advent, the liturgy shifts our attention from John the Baptist to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Both John and Mary serve as important figures for our reflection during the season of Advent; they both played instrumental roles in preparing the way for Jesus. Last week we reflected on John the Baptist’s announcement that the Savior was among us, although not yet recognized. This week we reflect upon Mary’s example of faith and obedience to God, traits which permitted her to receive the angel’s message that God’s Son would be born as a human person, as one of us.
We are familiar with the story of the Annunciation, and it is fitting that we recall how God announced the birth of Jesus as we make our final preparations for our celebration of the Incarnation. The angel Gabriel visited Mary, a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph. Mary greeted the angel’s news with awe and wonder and asked how it could be possible that she could give birth to a child. In his reply, the angel Gabriel announced the seemingly impossible reality: the child to be born would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and would be God’s own Son. The angel reported to Mary another miracle; her relative Elizabeth was also pregnant despite having been thought to be unable to have a child. Mary’s response to the angel, which is called her fiat, is an example of complete faith and obedience to God.
The story of the Annunciation calls to our attention God’s wondrous action in human history. God chose a human person to give birth to his Son so that all humanity would know God’s salvation. Mary, already full of God’s grace, was able to cooperate in this great plan for our salvation. Thus Jesus was born as one of us, fully human and also fully divine. This is the mystery we prepare to celebrate at Christmas, the mystery of the Incarnation. In the model of Mary, we pray that we will be people of faith who recognize God’s saving plan for us and are able respond with obedience.