Fourth Sunday of Advent: Sunday of Love: (Blue Candle) Dec 20, 2020)

Today we relight the first three candles of the Advent Wreath — the candles of HOPE, PEACE, and JOY. Now we light the fourth candle of Advent. This is the candle of LOVE. Jesus demonstrated self-giving love in his ministry as the Good Shepherd. Advent is a time for kindness, thinking of others, and sharing with others. It is a time to love as God loved us by giving us his most precious gift. As God is love, let us be love also. In the Book of Deuteronomy, we find these words:

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”—Deuteronomy 10:17-19a

From the Gospel of John, we hear: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”—John 13:34-35

The Gospel of Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 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 forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “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. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Let us pray: Teach us to love, O Lord. May we always remember to put you first as we follow Christ’s footsteps, that we may know your love and show it in our lives. As we prepare for our celebration of Jesus’ birth, also fill our hearts with love for the world, that all may know your love and the one whom you have sent, your son, our Savior. Amen.

How would you respond if an angel came to you and said “Greetings?” Would you be afraid or would you react as Mary did?  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord”. The angel reassured her and said do not be afraid. If we trust in God that greeting from an angel should not cause us to be afraid. As faithful disciples of Christ, we, too, have been called to do new and exciting things. God has blessed us with unique gifts and talents, and God has placed us in opportunities to use and share the gifts. We may wonder at times whether we understand what we are called to do. The task often seems impossible. We know ourselves only too well our weaknesses, our failings, our lack of experience. What do you think? Do things just happen, or is there some overall plan at work here in which everything fits together? Seldom can we say why things happen as they do. More often than not, we don’t have all the information we need. If we waited until all our questions were answered, we’d never do anything. So, we take what we know and use our best judgment and take a leap of faith. If God’s Spirit was able to do what was considered the impossible with Elizabeth and Mary, who knows what “impossible” ventures God is planning for you? The angel’s assurance to Mary is also a word of comfort to each of us: “Don’t be afraid, for you have found favor with God. The Holy Spirit will be with you.” if you act in good faith.

Let us Pray: Lord, we may feel that you have called us to impossibilities, as You called Elizabeth and Mary to do the humanly impossible, but we also know that Your mighty power worked in them, for nothing is impossible for You. We pray that You will work Your mighty power in our lives too, so together we can accomplish all Your purposes through us. We say with Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant.” May all Your words be fulfilled. Amen.

Anticipations and expectation and the season of Advent

The season of Advent draws to a close and soon it will be Christmas, the time we have been waiting for since March of this year. It will bring a period of happiness and joy to many but also to many it will bring a time of mourning and despair as many have lost loved ones and jobs this year. Even though many are not with us they remain in our hearts and this Sunday of Advent is the Sunday of Love, we can still feel the love of those we have lost. And as we look back on the other Sundays of Advent, the Sunday of Hope allows us to know that there is always Hope no matter how difficult things appear. The Sunday of Peace. Peace we can find within ourselves knowing that God has promised us, if we believe, the gift of eternal life. The Sunday of Joy, as John the Baptist emphasized, it’s not about me, so giving can bring the joy we need right now by giving to others. As I write this snow is silently falling, the world sounds peaceful with very little outside activity. A day like this gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect back on the year and especially the weeks of Advent. Four weeks of anticipation and expectations. Weeks when we were hoping to be able to celebrate Christmas with family and friends, but instead we will be spending it on Zoom or other means.  This could be a good time to actually look at our expectations and ask ourselves do we expect too much or too little. Maybe we need to balance our expectations with what we want and what we need. To take the opportunity to help others that are in need and their expectations are just for a warm place and a warm meal. As the snow wraps the world into a very quiet peace, the sounds of life are quieted. For a period, you can exist in a calm center of a sheltering love that has the feeling of keeping you safe. Peacefulness and love surround you, giving you time to breath. As you enjoy the peacefulness only a silent sound reminds you that the love of God stands beside you. We rejoice as we go out in your name to finish our Advent journey filled with hope, peace, joy and love ready to receive that promise afresh into our lives.

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