Anyone who knows about the building of structures will understand the concept of FINISHING or FINISHING TOUCHES. It is often said that the beauty of a structure lies mostly on the finishing. The finishing of any undertaking whatsoever shows the dexterity, competence, patience, and expertise of those who were involved in the undertaking in question. There is always a finishing in everything; sports, education, travels, relationships, and ultimately in religious creed. If I may use a common saying in competitive sports: “it is not over until it is over!” Put in another way we can say: “ it is not over until the finishing is done!”
Attentive to the description above, we can say that the advent period can only be over when we do the finishing touches. The readings today draw our attention to the needful finishing we need to do before we launch into the celebration of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Particularly our attention is drawn to the inputs of two women who stand close to the Nativity that is Mary and Elizabeth. Last Sunday we were asked to rejoice because he is near; today on the other hand we have been called to share that joy with others. We are told not only to accept this divine invitation to rejoice, we are also asked to become vehicles for the spread of this message of hope and joy. The best way to enjoy anything is to share the thing in question; after all it is often said that: “THERE IS JOY IN SHARING!” In other words, one of the finishing touches we are required to do is to spread this joy we have received to others.
Our attention is drawn to Mary and Elizabeth as they show us what it takes to undertake finishing touches in view of the coming of the Saviour of the world. In a very dramatic way, we reflect over the visitation which was the most prominent final acts before the birth of the Lord. Mary was visited by an angel called Gabriel (the same seniour angel that came to Zacharia). She was given the massage that she had been chosen to be the mother of the messiah; something that will happen through the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s acceptance confirmed the divine oracle in Isaiah (7:14). And as soon as she accepted, she was inundated by the Holy Spirit. Furthermore she had the privilege of a “divine gossip”, which made her to understand that her cousin Elizabeth had been blessed with a child and lost her title as barren to that of an expectant mother.
The gospel today began with the journey Mary made to the house of Elizabeth upon hearing the good news of God’s divine intervention in the family of Zacharia and Elizabeth. Mary’s visit was divinely motivated as we know that she was already filled with the Holy Spirit. Her visit to Elizabeth is one of the major finishing touches needed on the road to the nativity of the Lord. The necessity of this journey was confirmed when Elizabeth heard the voice of Mary. She testified under the influence of the same Holy Spirit that overwhelmed Mary that as soon as she heard the voice of Mary the Child in her womb leapt for joy. Some theologians would say the Holy Spirit filled voice of Mary brought about (through God’s grace) the untying of John from original sin; hence he leapt for joy at being liberated. Others would say that at the greeting of Mary John could see his mission as forerunner very well and could not wait to start announcing the filling of valleys, leveling of mountains and hills and smoothening of rough paths (Luke 3:4-6).
Mary’s visit on the other hand was a mission to share twofold joy. The joy of her cousin in view of the blessing with a child as well as the joy God had put into her by choosing her to be the mother of the saviour. Elizabeth’s response to Mary’s greeting as well as Mary’s song ( the magnificat) is an indication of the sharing of this joy. It seemed that all these had to take place before the birth of our Saviour as confirmatory of God’s hand in the whole affairs.
Today’s message is an ardent call to put finishing touches before the Saviour is born. John had earlier called for the construction of a spiritual super highway that will usher in the messiah. Now we are called upon to put the finishing touches on the spiritual construction work we had done. Some things may still be out of order, some edges may still need more straightening, some beautification may still be lacking. This final finishing touches need to be done in Bethlehem as the location of this birth. Obviously Micah in the first reading is actually referring to our hearts not just the town of Bethlehem. That small hidden part of our being (like Bethlehem little to be among the clans of Judah) namely our hearts will become the birthplace of our saviour. To make this to become more effectual we need to go back to the first reading and replace Bethlehem with “my heart” and Judah with “my being”.
There may still be some imperfections in your life, there may still be some attachments to inordinate things, and there may still be some elements of unforgiveness in your life and so on. This is the right time to do the needful finishing touches in your life so that your heart will be ready to accommodate the birth of the saviour. At this point we could ask ourselves some questions like:
- “Have I gone for confession in order to be worthy enough to celebrate with Christ at Christmas?”
- “Have I made peace with my neighbours and those whom I perceive or who perceive me to be their enemies?”
- “Do I have room for Jesus Christ to be born in me?”
- “What gift will I offer to the new born king?”
- “Will his coming at Christmas make me better or worse in my relationship with Him and my neighbours”?
By the time we give answers to these question we would be better placed to know our strengths, weakness, opportunities and challenges in view of celebrating a blissful and Christ centred Christmas. As we light the fourth, may God give us the grace to see clearly the areas in our lives that need to be amended before Jesus Christ is born in us!
Have a happy Sunday and a fruitful celebration of the Nativity of the Lord!