With the Fourth Sunday of Advent we have now entered the countdown to Christmas. The pre-octave began on the 17 December and the gospel readings at mass for these seven days to the 24 December will wend their way through the familiar story which Matthew and Luke unfold for us. All our preparation has been leading us to this climax which the incarnation signifies. Our two words for this week - continuity and annunciation - align our thoughts with a sense of history and the past, alongside an anticipation of the future and of what is to come.
The reaching back into the past is palpable, and both Matthew and Luke in their gospels make this connection. The first reading from Samuel relates the story of King David and of his desire to provide a worthy and dignified home for the Ark of the Covenant, the vessel in which the tablets of stone inscribed with the words of the decalogue were stored. Nathan the prophet tells David that God himself will make of him a house. A house that will be one which will stand in perpetuity, and that David and his lineage will become the father of a great dynasty by which the faithful love of God for his people will endure for ever.
In their telling of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, the central emphasis of the message delivered to Joseph in Matthew and to Mary in Luke is that the child who is to be born, will be of Davidic lineage. Indeed, Gabriel spells this our clearly in his words to Mary - the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David…and his reign will have no end. The reality of this moment for us all is momentous.
Understanding the continuity of what we proclaim, that the message of love that flows from the encounter between heaven and earth in the exchange between Mary and the angel, is essential. Mary's response to the angel, made in freedom and trust, establishes the point at which the reconciling event in the history of humanity is affirmed. The love of God for his people enunciated by words inscribed in stone within the Ark of the Covenant is now to become the spoken word made flesh carried by Mary. Such is the magnitude of this moment that Luke once more frames Mary's response in her Magnificat as in continuity with the Song of Hannah in the Old Testament. It is a deep and powerful connection of the action of God in time, towards our human condition.
Let us pick up on this continuity and continue to announce it with boldness for generations to come.