"It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first came to believe " St Paul told the Romans
NOW is the hour - for salvation is closer than you think - this is the spirit of Advent.
There is a tension in Advent between waiting, alert and joyful and our journeying in confidant trust towards the Lord's second coming.
At Advent we look backward at the joy of the nativity when God becomes man - humble and gentle - born of a virgin and we look forward to our Lord's coming again in majesty and glory to judge the living and the dead.
Throughout These last couple of weeks we have been called, reminded and prodded by the Spirit of Advent; the first Sunday of Advent, was a wake up to the call to God' judgement that will come, the 2nd Sunday we were called to live authentic lives and to make the crooked straight within ourselves and in those we touch in preparation of the coming of the Lord,
and last week there was the joyful confession in he who is coming to baptize not with water for the repentance of sin, but with the Holy Spirit to bring about new life of faith.
And today we are reminded that nothing is impossible for God and we are shown the model of humility and trust in Mary's surrendering to the impossible in her yes to God. Advent isn't just another passing season.
In the first reading king David thought he had a plausible plan.
- to build an appropriate house ( a temple) for God.
This was a good and noble plan but it wasn't God's plan.
God's plan was bigger and grander than anything King David could even imagine.
What would be impossible for David to build in stone was surly possible for God to create in the womb of a virgin.
God, through Nathan the prophet, reminded David that he began his life a shepherd of his father's flock.
God tells David not to bother with building him a house (for who can house God?).
Build your people up instead, love them and care for them as a good shepherd of my flock.
Do this and your kingdom will last for ever.
David's kingdom, a sign of God's kingdom, will last beyond brick and mortar, for it is never what we build of stone that lasts.
We know that David's historical undivided kingdom did not last beyond his grandson.
The kingdom God speaks of crosses the boundaries of time and place and extends to the ends of the earth as well as the end of time itself.
In the second reading Paul describes the extent of this new impossible kingdom as "being made known to all nations" and it will be achieved only - through faith in, him who can strengthen you, Jesus Christ.
In today's gospel reading we see how God will go about this grand enterprise of salvation.
God's messenger the glorious and sublime angel Gabriel reveals to a young, betrothed virgin, the shape of the plan. It is a story of angelic majesty meeting human humility.
"Hail, full of Grace" is Gabriel's greeting to Mary. Clearly, she is already blessed by her chosen-ness, her immaculate conception and sinless life and she will be further blessed by what is to come.
"The Lord is with you" emphasis that Mary has been chosen to be the Lord's instrument and his bearer.
Now this is all too much, to overwhelming for a young girl to get her head around.
"Do not be afraid" Gabriel comforts a uneasy Mary.
This is a promise that only goodness, beyond understanding, comes from the Lord.
Gabriel goes on to reveal to Mary the impossible future.
You (he tells her) will be the mother of the redeemed and the redeemer!
You will conceive a child - Emmanuel (God with us). You will call him Jesus,
But the world (some day) will call him Son of God and he will rule over God's kingdom comprising of all nations in faith and he will rule this kingdom forever.
The shear force and magnitude of this revelation must of weighed heavily on Mary
and she asks Gabriel how this can be.
Gabriel says - God will do this, for nothing is impossible for God.
He will do this through the Holy Spirit who will overshadow you. Which means the Holy Spirit will consume completely and changes her and we must remember that Mary was overshadowed not just at divine conception, but for her whole life. Through all the joys, the anxieties, even through suffering and sorrow Mary was always full of God's overshadowing Grace, which is fully realized at her assumption into heaven.
Mary's response to the impossible, changed the world and inspires us down to our very day by its humble and trusting acceptance of God's will.
"May it be done according to your word", she tells Gabriel.
This acceptance doesn't come from understanding or reason.
Mary hasn't figured it out. She doesn't get it. She surrenders to the unreasonable, the mystery of God. This is her faith, a simple (but profound) trust in God.
And this is the mystery of Advent, nothing is impossible for God, not in Mary's life or in our own.
We must hold on to this Spirit of - openness to mystery - to something bigger then ourselves.
Too often we look for God with our own ideas about what that means, our own images and assumptions about Him and so in the end - we only find ourselves.
We meet the reasonable, the expected, the humanly possible, but never the Devine impossible.
But, Our Blessed Mother (without preconceived ideas) was open to encounter the overshadowing mystery that is God. She was open to embracing the impossible.
And She would wait for it to unfold in hopeful and joyful expectation.
Advent reminds us of this.
What we wait for should determine how we wait.
What we journey towards should govern our effort to get there.
Our lives, forever changed by the incarnation, should mirror our faith in Jesus the Christ.
God breaking into our world was not impossible.
God's coming kingdom fulfilled is not impossible.
Living in the Spirit now - as Christ bearers - is not impossible.
Eternal life through Jesus is not impossible.
Advent is a time, that as Christian believers we wait, alert and joyful.
And we journey forward, as one people, in faith, hope and love.
We look back to the incarnation with its sweet tenderness that pierces our hearts
and we look forward to his coming kingdom.
Advent, always and everywhere rings out
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.