The Annunciation of Jesus' Birth

18 December 2005: 4th Sunday of Advent and
20 December 2001
: Tuesday of the 4th Sunday of Advent
Luke 1, 26-38: The Annunciation

Mary's obedience to the will of the Father is lovely. Mary forgets the most common prayer--- "Let your will be changed" or "Let my will be done" ---- and prays the greatest prayer "Let Your will be done." Her Son, Jesus will pray the same thing at the Agony in the Garden: "Not my will, but Your will be done." Maybe, He learned the prayer from His mom. And it stuck that he taught it to his friends. And his friends in turn taught it to us: the "Our Father."

Mary's prayer teaches us three things. First, it teaches us that the greatest prayer indeed is simple and unadorned. And second, it teaches us that the simplest and greatest prayer is a prayer of commitment, a "YES" to the will of the Father.

First, the greatest prayer is simple and unadorned. Even if it is a cry of the heart in the midst of a scandal. You see, just as the family tree of Jesus contains saints and sinners, Jesus' birth is also surrounded by scandal. Mary is found to be pregnant before she has lived with Joseph. Joseph, who is a just man, decides to divorce her quietly. In other words, he will put her out of his life. Joseph is not open to scandal. The angel who appears to him entreats him not to fear scandal. Joseph should take Mary into his home. And thus, this story drives home the proper attitude toward the strange and scandalous: do not be afraid to take it into your home.

A disciple came to his Master at midnight. He was distraught.

"Master, I need to talk to you immediately. I am filled with anxiety and fear."

"Right this way," said the Master. The master opened a door that led down a long corridor. It was unlit, but the master had a candle in his hand.

"You go first," said the master.

As the disciple moved down the corridor, the master blew out the light.

Mary's prayer was simple. She said yes, though she was anxious of the scandal that that consent might bring her. Her attitude towards scandal was to bring it home. Her attitude towards fear is to enter into the darkness. They say "There is no other way to face fear, than to face it."

This is simple prayer. Most of us yearn for prayer and hide from prayer. We are afraid to pray because we want to have everything "just right" in order to pray. We used to think that we need to get all our motives straightened out before we could pray. We want to have our motives purified. We want to pray pure, without the scandals that mess our souls, without the fear that cripples our hearts.

But the truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives: other-centered and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. We come with some parts clean and some parts messy. We come to pray, trusting God, like Mary, that He would work His way even in the midst of all this mixture. That the heart of God is big enough to receive us. To accept the scandals in our lives. In our families.

And so, indeed it is true: that we can pray like this: "I'm afraid Lord to face the darkness. But, I will trust." "I'm angry Lord at my parents." and so on and so forth. Tell him. He knows all things (1 John 3:20), so there is no reason for pretending. Ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father. We open our hearts and make our requests.

Because, we will never have pure enough motives, or be good enough, or know enough in order to pray rightly. You see, Jesus said, that prayer is like children. They come with all their crazy requests, mean and selfish sometimes, like "I want Jollibee hotdog!" at midnight! But what matters is that we are glad they do come to us, mixed motives and all. What is worse is when they do not come at all.

We make mistakes, we sin, we fall down, then we begin again. We pray again. We seek to follow God's will again. And again, our selfishness comes in and defeats us. Never mind. We confess, and begin again. Again, and again, and again. What matter is that we come. Like children.

My final point. The prayer "Let Your will be done" is a prayer of commitment that involves our whole lives. It is not a one shot deal. Not a donation.

There is a story of a pig and a hen who lived with their Master. On the night of their Master's birthday, the hen asked the pig what gift they would give to their Master. The pig answered that the hen should know because "she was good at it." So the hen suggested that they would cook breakfast. "Sa akin ang itlog, sa iyo ang tocino." Sabi ng baboy, "Madaya ka, sa iyo, donation, sa akin commitment."

A warning before we end. Most of our Christmases are empty because we busy ourselves with the externals: buying gifts, fixing our rooms. We forget what is essential. And when we do remember the essence of the celebration, we are too late. Let us not live the folktale of Befana:

Befana, the Housewife, scrubbing her pane,

Saw three old sages ride down the lane,

Saw three grey travellers pass her door---

Gaspar, Balthazar, Melchior.

"Where journey you, sirs?" she asked of them.

Balthazar answered, "To Bethlehem,

For we have news of a marvelous thing.

Born in a stable is Christ the King."

"Give Him my welcome!"

Then Gaspar smiled,

"Come with us, mistress, to greet the Child."

"Oh, happily, happily would I fare,

Were my dusting through and I'd polished the stair."

Old Melchoir leaned on his saddlehorn.

"Then send but a gift to the small Newborn."

"Oh, gladly, gladly I'd send Him one,

Were the hearthstone swept and my weaving done.

As soon as ever I've baked my bread,

I'll fetch Him a pillow for His head,

And a coverlet too," Befana said.

"When the rooms are aired and the linen dry,

I'll look at the Babe."

But the Three rode by.

She worked for a day and a night and a day,

Then, gifts in her hands, took up her way.

But she never found where the Christ Child lay.

And still she wanders at Christmastide,

Houseless, whose house was all her pride.

As I we go to spend our Christmas vacations with our families, I pray: May we not be late. May we find the Christ Child in a stable we all call "Home."

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