Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent Year B

This week’s Gospel reading is in dramatic contrast to last week’s story of John’s encounter with inquisitors from Jerusalem. However, in both there is an announcement of the imminent arrival of the Lord’s Anointed One, the Son of the Most High.

The scene is a simple, cool room, not the dry, hot river bank in Bethany. John made a public declaration to all the people of Israel but an angel quietly reassures and speaks with one awed and frightened girl. Instead of challenging demands from suspicious men of power we hear the innocent, bewildered Mary ask simply, “How can this be?”

John talks of one who will come with great power. He is preparing the way of the Lord. The angel tells Mary of a quiet, intimate encounter in which God’s spirit will form within her a tiny, vulnerable baby. He tells her of Elizabeth’s conception of a son six months ago. John and Jesus: their stories are interwoven from before their birth to the time of prophecy on the river bank.

Imagine that moment just before the first revelation of this mystery. No-one yet knows this divine secret and it’s Mary’s response which allows the divine plan to begin its unfolding.

We hear God’s vice in different ways: in the thundering of a prophet and in the whisper of an angel. All creation holds its breath. How will we respond? So much depends on it.

“In the beginning was the Word” – let the Word be “Yes”.