Advent is the season of active watching and waiting for the coming of the Lord as we anticipate the joy of Christmas and the coming of God’s kingdom of justice and peace. This year it is especially relevant and challenging as we watch and wait with hope amid the deep pain and suffering caused by the current hostilities.
We have therefore decided to focus our Advent reflections on some important virtues and values the Christmas story reveals to build and strengthen our faith at this difficult time.
The first of these is humility which is so profoundly revealed in the humble circumstances of the birth of Jesus in an animal shelter in Bethlehem where he was laid in a feeding trough because there was no room for Joseph and Mary at the inn.
Mary also demonstrates great humility in accepting the summons of God to become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God. She responds to the angel Gabriel with the words, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1: 38).
The virtue of humility is always found closely associated with divine grace: for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Her humble submission to God’s will is in stark contrast to the pride and paranoia of King Herod who arrogantly seeks to destroy the baby Jesus by ordering the murder of all male babies under the age of two years when the Magi come to Jerusalem and ask, “Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1).
In her song of praise glorifying God (after meeting Elizabeth), Mary rejoices in God her Saviour because of his mercy and grace in looking on her humble state and choosing her to be the mother of the Lord. She also thanks God for his mercy which is extended to all those who fear him from every generation and for His mighty deeds he has performed in scattering those who are proud in their inmost thoughts and lifting up the humble (Luke 1:46-56).
The words of the Canticle of Mary known as the Magnificat have been incorporated into the liturgy of most historic churches and are recited at the start of Advent and in the prayers of the Church and is one of the most ancient Christian hymns.
As we sing and recite the Magnificat this Advent season, let us also thank God for His mercy and grace towards us in the gift of His Son, and like Mary submit our lives to the will of God in humility and obedience – for in His will we find our peace, joy, and strength amid the pain and suffering around us!
How can we cultivate the same attitude of humility as that of Jesus, which was also shared by Mary this Advent? How will this affect the way in which I interact with those around me – my family, friends, work colleagues and those who actively oppose me?