On the fourth Sunday of Advent, so close to the feast we wait to celebrate, we listen to the Gospel that marks the end of the time of waiting. We listen to the very moment when everything changes—a brand new moment in the history of the Kingdom of God.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a young woman engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The young woman's name was Mary.
Imagine now, everything is about to change. Mary will know that the time of waiting is finally over.
And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
We can ponder what sort of greeting this might be, too. "Greetings" is a way of saying hello. The Greek word that St. Luke uses means, "Rejoice!" It is a hello that is full of good news! Another word for this good news greeting is, "Hail!"
Then the angel calls her favoured. Favour means God fills her with God's goodness and help. We call this grace. The angel says Mary is one full of the help and goodness of God. Mary, full of grace.
So the angel Gabriel's first words to Mary are, "Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you!" Is that not interesting? These are the first words of a prayer! When we pray the Hail Mary, we use the words the angel speaks at the moment when everything changes in the history of the Kingdom of God.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.
Here is the great announcement! Finally, someone knows that the time of waiting is over! Jesus, the One who saves, comes!
One thing is odd, though. The angel says, "And now," but then he says, "you will conceive." If it is "now," should it not already be happening? Jesus should be beginning life inside of her. But "will" means something that happens later. "Now" and "will" do not go together. Is he coming? Maybe the time of waiting is not over.
The angel continues,
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
He will be great, he will be called the Son of the Most High, he will be king with a kingdom that lasts forever. What do we wait for? There seems to be a problem.
Mary sees a problem, too. She is not married. So how can this happen? But the angel responds,
“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 holy; he will be called Son of God.
The Holy Spirit will bring life, the Holy Spirit will make holy. This is who the Holy Spirit is! The giver of life, the One who brings the holy into the world. But even the Holy Spirit seems to wait. All this will happen...if.
Everyone waits. The angel waits, the whole world waits, God waits...
for Mary's response.
Mary has not said yes.
What will she say? What if she says no?
But Mary says,
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
She says yes, and the One who saves begins to grow inside of her.
She says yes, and the Son of the Most High, the One with the throne and the kingdom that lasts forever, comes to show us all how to build that kingdom.
Mary says yes, and the Son of God who wants so much to be with us, is born on a dark night, bringing light, and goodness, and glory.
We read this Gospel on the fourth Sunday of Advent, to celebrate this moment when Mary says yes, making room for the Holy Spirit to bring the holy into the world. We celebrate this moment that changes everything forever, because God becomes one of us.
And so we pray those words that the angel speaks to Mary at the very moment of the change, at the very moment that Mary's yes opens the world to God.
We ask Mary to pray that we, too, can say yes to God, because our yes-es matter.
We ask Mary to pray that we, too, can make room for the Holy Spirit to bring the holy into the world.
We ask God to wait no longer.