December 19th, 2003
Tom Shanahan, S.J.
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The readings in the liturgy for today tell the stories of two
very special births. There are strong parallels in the two readings,
one from the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Judges and the other from St. Luke’s
gospel. Both stories depict a mother who is well advanced in age and
yet becomes pregnant by the grace of God. In each story an angel announces
the birth and the children about to be born will be very special persons
with a unique role in God’s plan.
The readings are especially appropriate for the Advent -- they imply waiting
and anticipation, both virtues called out by this season. We are invited
to wait patiently and to ponder and keep ourselves open to the implications
for us of the birth of Jesus. Waiting (and its cousin, patience) is
not a virtue that we are very good at for the most part – We want things
In the first reading about the birth of the strong man, Sampson, we are told
that the boy was born and “grew up and the Lord blessed him; the spirit of
the Lord stirred him.” He would be part of God’s unique plan for the
Israelite people. The second is the story of the special circumstances
surrounding the birth of John the Baptiser. John is the figure who
epitomizes the season of Advent because his task is to wait for the right
moment when he can point out the messiah to a world awaiting Him.
Ask any mother-to-be or father-to-be if the birth they are expecting is going
to be special and the answer is a resounding YES! Waiting for and expecting
birth is the prime experience of what the season of Advent is all about.
The child to be born won’t be Sampson or John the Baptist; there is only
one of each of them.
However, the child born represents for us the potential for being open to
the wonders that God wants to bring to our world. And so these births
that we contemplate today in the scripture readings remind us vividly of
the birth of Jesus that we are awaiting.
We await the birth of Jesus not merely as an historical fact; that has already
been accomplished in the manger outside the Inn at Bethlehem.
The birth we seek is to discover is Jesus being born at an even deeper level
in our hearts.
Advent is such a special time of the year. As we approach even closer
to Christmas day, we are invited to keep on waiting and anticipating that
wonderful entrance of Christ into our hearts and lives.
Lord, keep me faithful to the anticipation and the waiting. I am impatient
to have an end to waiting. Help me to know that it is YOU I am awaiting
and to grow in hope of your deeper and deeper entrance into my heart and
soul. Thank you for your wondrous blessings and gifts. Help me
to be enriched by the very anticipation of your presence.
to the writer of this reflection.
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