We’re deep into the ‘holiday season’ now, making preparations for Christmas. Signs of festivity abound, from carols played on a loop in shops to hyper signs advertising sales to entice deeper spending. As Christians we must fight hard against consumer culture in order to ‘keep Christ in Christmas’.
Each Sunday we will light one more candle in the Advent wreath, the increased light a sign that we are drawing closer to the anticipated event: the birth of our Lord. Christ truly is the centre of this great feast, and yet the narrative itself reminds us that we are all players in the story. At different times in our life we may identify with one character or another: the shepherds privileged to witness; the curious, intrepid foreign kings bearing gifts; the rejoicing angels; the simple animals sharing their crib; the humble mother and father. God’s plan, His great gift of salvation, has a role for them all.
The Church is wise, I think, to give us the Feast of the Immaculate Conception now, just when we are focused on the coming of the Lord. The Immaculata shows us what is required in order to be Christ-Bearers, to bring Christ into the world, to make Christ present to those around us. She is the ultimate example of conformity to God’s will, of perfect obedience, of dying to self, of surrender, of being a fit dwelling for the Word of God. Yes, Mary is granted freedom from original sin, and we are not. But, however imperfect we may be, God makes grace available to us through the sacraments. That is no small thing!
God does not ask me to be Mary, He asks me to be me. Mary is an example of how to use God-given gifts in the service of God and neighbour: I can be obedient and humble as Mary is; I can carry the Christ Child in my heart. I, too, can be a sign of Love.
O God, who by the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, didst prepare a worthy dwelling place for Thy Son, we beseech that, as by the foreseen death of this Thy Son, Thou didst preserve her from all stain, so too Thou wouldst permit us, purified through her intercession, to come unto Thee. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost , God, world without end. Amen.
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