Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
Many folks are “on the move" right now,
traveling here and there to visit family and friends for Christmas.
Perhaps there are folks here this morning
who have traveled to Concord to be here for Christmas
and some seats our empty because our parishioners
have gone elsewhere for Christ.
Children may be expecting a “visit” that results in toys under the tree
and adults anticipate a visit from a letter carrier
bringing credit card bills over the next couple of weeks.
(whether it’s across the country or down the street);
we visit because we want to be near one another,
close to one another at this special time of the year.
There’s some visiting going on in today’s gospel, too.
We find Mary, expecting the Christ child
visiting her older kinswoman, Elizabeth,
also pregnant, in her old age.
Mary travels out to the hill country to see her.
This encounter between these two pregnant women
is, in fact, called the Visitation.
(Those who pray the Rosary
know this as the second joyful mystery. )
This is a great story for us to read just before Christmas,
the feast that celebrates the greatest visit in human history:
God visiting his people, in Christ, some 2000 years ago.
Not through a vision, not through a prophet, not by email:
this was not a “virtual visit” this was a visit in the flesh,
in real time.
God’s visiting the world began in just the same way
our coming into the world began:
through the door of a mother’s womb.
We’ve all heard a pregnant woman tell us,
“I just felt the baby kick!”
That’s what Elizabeth told Mary when she said,
“As soon as I heard your voice,
the child within me leaped for joy!”
Elizabeth was carrying the child
who would become John the Baptist, Christ's cousin,
and in her heart she already understood who was the Child
who’d come to visit her in Mary’s womb.
At Christmas we celebrate Christ who came to visit us.
And Christ is a visitor who stayed not for just a day or two;
in fact, not even a lifetime was long enough for him.
Jesus didn’t just “stop by.”
Christ moved in...
He moved into humankind, into our history,
into our hearts and our hopes, our problems and our pain;
our worries and our wounds; our dreams and our desires;
into our past, our present and our future.
Jesus came to visit -
and has never, not even for moment, left us.
Christmas is a time for renewing family relationships and friendships,
a time when we try to be especially warm and welcoming
of one another - even of the stranger.
It’s a time to be especially warm in welcoming the Lord, too,
and to welcome him to visit in those places in our hearts and lives
where perhaps in the past we've told him
in one way or another,
“Sorry, there’s no room in the inn for you here.”
Jesus is a good and gentle guest:
he comes with love and mercy and with peace.
He doesn't leave those under a tree or stuffed in a stocking.
He leaves them in our hearts.
He knows our hearts’ desires
and wants to fulfill the deepest needs we have.
Every week the Lord invites us to be guests at his table, this altar,
and to visit with him as he did with us in Bethlehem:
in the flesh, in his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
In these next few days,
as we welcome family and friends at Christmas time,
so may each of us welcome into our hearts, Christ the Lord:
the greatest visitor ever to knock on the doors of our hearts.
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