Fourth Sunday of Advent: Making Room for the Christ Child
Making Room for the Christ Child
Read: Luke 1:39-55
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.
Today is the last Sunday of Advent 2018. On this day we remember Mary’s visit to her relative Elizabeth. The angel had told Mary that Elizabeth who advanced in years, was also pregnant. The Holy Spirit has the power to bring life into the womb of a sterile woman as well as that of a virgin. For God nothing is impossible!
There was great rejoicing, even singing, in the visit between Mary and Elizabeth. And in their faithfulness, both women knew that their joy was not just a blessing for them. God was blessing all of humanity. Elizabeth would bear a son named John who would show the way to God’s salvation. Mary would give birth to the Savior of the world. Mary and Elizabeth knew what this meant.
God’s mercy was about to show up in its fullness! The birth of the Savior would bring that long awaited time when the humble would be lifted up, the hungry would be filled with good things, and the merciful would be blessed.
These human conditions always have a counter side so Mary sings that the Savior would scatter the proud, bring down rulers from their thrones, and send the rich away empty. This was the vision of hope that the prophets of old had proclaimed to God’s people. God is a God who cares for the suffering and who calls to account those who cause others to suffer and those who ignore and neglect the suffering.
Last weekend I stayed at a place that had the following sign on the entry door:
I confess I felt a sickening feeling in my stomach when I read this sign. No beggars or peddlers allowed.
The sign made me feel entitled, as if my stepping beyond it pulled me into the zone of arrogance, bias and prejudice.
Perhaps to justify my stepping into such a place, for a moment I convinced myself that the sign was dated, something out of a much earlier generation. But as I looked at it over and over again as I entered that building over several days, I knew that it was a sign of the state of life today.
Today too many are suffering from hunger, and loneliness, from lack of jobs or underemployment that leaves them tired but unable to fully care for the fundamentals of their family’s needs, like housing, clothing, transportation and health care. Too many are being ignored in their plight because they have been shunned to the outer edges of society. In the struggle of human survival, some have lost their way and wound up in prison or imprisoned by prostitution and addictions. Others have fallen into the endless journeys of forced migration and sex trafficking. In some ways they are all viewed as beggars and peddlers.
The extent of human suffering today is enormous, overwhelming and tragic. But it doesn’t have to be this way! Christ our Lord comes anew to our hearts to remind us that he our mighty help is with us! But the transformation of our suffering world will require the confession of and turning away from our sinful ways.
I have been asking God to show me the times I have treated another as a scorned beggar or peddler rather than as a brother or sister trying to survive and in need of my help. I have been asking God to help me see when I have acted out of pride and power rather than mercy and compassion. When, Oh Lord, I have said to God in my prayers, have I been so comfortable in my wealth that I have forgotten those who have little to nothing.
I believe that if each one of us extended mercy, compassion, and tender love to just one person or one family who suffers, not only would we see the world being transformed, we would also experience our hearts making room for the birth of the Christ Child.
Nothing blocks our hearts from receiving Christ our Savior more than the unfaithful spirit that sometimes leads us to unashamedly say: No beggars, no peddlers, no homeless, no migrants, no prostitutes, no drug addicts welcomed here.
The truth is that these are the very people Christ came for in the hope that the rest of us would catch up with the vision of the world of justice and peace that Christ ushers in.
As we come close to Christmas Day, let us make room in our hearts for the birth of the Christ Child, the One who calls us to mercy, compassion and love.
Your Sister in Christ,
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño