Well, we made it. Here we are at the fourth Sunday of Advent. The Advent wreath is completed, and our Advent calendars nearly so; the tree is decorated and the stockings hung by the chimney. It is a good time to reflect – how has your Advent been?
It’s safe to say that it has been different from past years. More challenging in many ways. One effect of the pandemic is that people are spending a lot more time at home, focusing on their family, their houses. Being home all day has led to a big boom in home improvement projects, causing lumber prices to skyrocket. Home Depot and Lowes are having banner years. And have you noticed also that this year Christmas decorations and light displays seem bigger than ever? It’s as if we are pushing back on chaos by making our lives and our homes as welcoming, comfortable, bright and orderly as possible awaiting the day when we can once again welcome visitors.
King David had a grand home improvement project in mind in our first reading. But not for his own house, which apparently was already beautiful and spacious as befitting a king. He wanted to build a replacement for the tabernacle, the encampment that contained the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark held the tablets given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The tabernacle was the earthly dwelling place of God, and both the tabernacle and the Ark were built according to the detailed instructions God gave to Moses. The Ark that held the tablets of covenant was beautifully constructed according to God’s construction plans, with the highest level of human craftsmanship and the purest gold.
David’s plan was to prepare a fitting place for God to inhabit, declaring “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent!” At first, Nathan the prophet approved this plan, saying “Go, do whatever you have in mind, for the LORD is with you.” But after consultation with God, Nathan instead persuades David that the dwelling place God wanted was in David’s heart. God promised to establish David’s line as his permanent dwelling, that David’s house and kingdom will endure forever.
Skip forward approximately 1000 years from David and we come to the beautiful story of the annunciation we just heard in the Gospel. It is a direct continuation of the story of David and Nathan. Once God asked David to make him a home in his heart and promised his house will endure forever. Mary, we read, is of the house of David. Now God, who already resides in Mary’s heart, asks her to make him a home in her flesh.
Just as the Ark of the original covenant had to be without blemish, Mary, to become the Ark of the New Covenant, had to be of the highest purity . Nothing impure can be in the presence of God (Revelation 21:27). And so, it was God himself who prepared Mary for the coming of his divine son. As are all of us, Mary was made in the image of God and as such we are God’s most perfect creation, the capstone of the creation story in Genesis. By her immaculate conception, God assured that Mary was without sin, stain of sin, or disorder and as the angel Gabriel said, ‘full of grace’. Mary was to be the house and the palace of the Great King, of God Himself, specially prepared to honor her Lord, to be a worthy dwelling for the Eternal Godhead.
But there was one thing missing. One final step needed, without which all would not be welcoming and orderly. Mary granted God permission, saying “Let it be done to me according to your will” and the Word became flesh. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, makes his home eternally clothed in the human flesh given him by his mother.
So how is your home improvement project progressing his Advent? Not the one where you remodel your kitchen – no, I mean the project where God remodels your heart to prepare for his Son to dwell there. Have you granted God a building permit? Advent is a time to put aside whatever is keeping you from inviting Christ into your heart. To evaluate your priorities and direction of your life; to be prepared to be used by God. Does anger or hatred, bitterness or jealousy block the way to your heart? Do addictions of any kind blind or deafen you to the voice of God? Ask God to reveal if there is any impure way in you and bring it to the sacrament of reconciliation. The project starts as soon as you pray, as Mary did,‘ Let it be done to me according to your word’. And then, join Mary in proclaiming the greatness of the Lord.
This Advent will be over in a few days. Is your heart ready? If not, do not be greatly troubled. God’s time is not our time. In Christ, there is no time barrier or limitation, he is the eternal now. All the grace available at the first Christmas for those who came to worship him is there for you today. You, as did the Blessed Mother, have perfect freedom to say yes to God and to invite him into your heart. “The place which God takes in our soul he will never vacate, for in us is his home of homes, and it is the greatest delight for him to dwell there”. (Julian of Norwich).