Fourth Sunday in Advent
A Message of Joy
Points to note
Some say that the waiting time of Advent is a bit like the expectations one encounter at the time of pregnancy, just that it is four weeks rather than nine months. Today, we hear of the story of how the pregnancy of all pregnancies started.
There have been depictions of the Annunciation by many artists but most are set in a ornate room with tiled floors and paintings on the wall. One must remember that most of these paintings were commissioned by rich patrons and those paintings on the wall were probably the artist’s advertisement billboards
I always, though, imagine the event to take place in a small humble house with mud floors and barren walls. The virgin is unassumingly dressed in house clothes rather than in an embroidered dress. Jesus was the message but it was not a message of liberation for the wealthy and powerful but for the poor and the burdened in society.
In this time of celebrations, it has always been customary in the Church to turn her prayers and attention to those who has not been fortunate to revel in festivities that many of us have been used to.
Acclamation before the Gospel
I am the handmaid of the Lord:
let what you have said be done to me. Alleluia!
This is the final Sunday of Advent, the last before Christmas. Remind the children that there are four Sundays in Advent and that Christmas is round the corner. The last of the Advent wreath candles will be lit today.
The Lord be with you.
All: And also with your spirit.
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St Matthew
All: Glory to you O Lord
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. He went in and said to her, ‘Rejoice, so highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ She was deeply disturbed by these words and asked herself what this greeting could mean, but the angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?’ ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you’ the angel answered ‘and the power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God. Know this too: your kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible to God’ ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord,’ said Mary ‘let what you have said be done to me.’ And the angel left her.
This is the Good News of the Lord
What was the story about? It is a well-known story with which most children with basic catechism should be familiar. Take them through the story and what happened. Focus on the message of the angel and that it was a message of joy. Discuss how they would have felt if they have been told that the Saviour of the World is to be born. Discuss why. What does it mean that a Saviour is coming? Leave it at conceptual level if the children are unable to translate it into real terms.
Imagine the scene. Ask the children to use their imagination to see how the scene looked like. Do they imagine a room like the one they have at home? Discuss the reality of the room that Mary was in – it was the home of a poor carpenter. Was it a rich man’s house? Ask the children to describe a poor man’s house. It will be interesting to see if any of them have ever been in a poor person’s house.
What would the message of the coming of a Saviour mean to poor people? Explore what poorer people would be expecting from a Saviour. Would it include freedom from physical hunger as well as spiritual ones?
Explain to the children that we call Christmas the season of peace and goodwill and that it should also include
· freedom from wars that is faced by many Christians who are fleeing their homes in some countries
· freedom to pray and celebrate Christmas the way they want to but are stopped by various people & governments
· freedom from hunger and malnutrition that plagues many people even in rich countries
· freedom to pursue education and opportunities for life, especially for girls in some places
· freedom to travel wherever they want to be and be with their loved ones this Christmas
While the children may not be able to do much with the above problems, they would be able to stay with these people in their prayers, just as Jesus will be with them in their longing.