S. Elaine Fischer, OSB December 24th, 2023
Tonight as we prepare for the fourth Sunday of Advent and stand on the cusp of Christmas, we hear once again the wonderful Annunciation story.
We are asked to ponder the meaning of the angel Gabriel’s message of a new child who will change everything and yet whose message hinges on Mary’s all embracing “yes”.
Perhaps we could ask ourselves: what is this gospel reading inviting us to do in these few short hours remaining in this Advent season?
For me, one simple word which we heard three times in tonight’s Gospel holds the key. That word is “Behold”.
“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall
name him Jesus.”
“Behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age.”
“ Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”
The definition of the word “behold” is to see, to observe. However, to truly behold is to do more than simply give a fleeting glance. It is much more intense. It calls us to stop, to look and to really listen.
The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said: “Behold, you are to conceive and bear a son”. Pretty shocking news to say the least! And yet, haven’t each of us had events in our lives that dramatically changed the direction of our path, our future? Maybe it was a change of ministry or facing our own diminishment or letting go of loved ones who have completed their
earthly journey. Those times call us to behold, to stop, to look and to listen to our own earth- shaking events and discover in them God’s love and
mercy. And then, we also are called to have the courage to discern and respond to these unexpected invitations from God.
The second “Behold”: “Behold Elizabeth your cousin has conceived a son in her old age.” Maybe this statement of the angel is asking us to stop, look and listen for the big and little miracles of God’s presence and love that surrounds each of us every day – from the smile of a sister across the chapel aisle, to the magical loveliness of a new snowfall or the joyful
laughter of children opening up Christmas gifts. We need to always seek to open our eyes and the ear of our heart to the wisdom and creative energy of God in our daily lives.
The final “Behold” is Mary saying: “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.”
This behold is asking us to stop, look and listen and believe that God’s presence and love resides deeply in our own hearts and souls. It is only then that we can accept with gratitude and humility all the gifts and talents God has placed in each of our lives and to use these talents/gifts to spread God’s mercy and love. Each of us are called to be the handmaid of the Lord.
Let us in the final hours of this Advent season and though out the wonderful Christmas season, take time to stop, look and really listen so that we, like Mary, can behold God’s loving call, behold God’s amazing creation and behold the Christ child that lies deep within our hearts.