Fourth Sunday of Advent,
Cycle B.

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

Jesus, the Promised Messiah.

 

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply:       Amen

 

Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply:       Blessed be God for ever

Leader:         This last week of Advent is brief, but the message is profound. The fulfillment of God’s promises is about to happen! Today’s readings are examples of seeking wisdom and trying to work out the best thing to do. David wants to know if he should build a magnificent piece of architecture as God’s dwelling place, whilst Mary wonders how she can be the one who provides the precious dwelling for the unborn Son of God.

Lighting of the fourth candle on the Advent wreath.

 

Leader:          Today we light the last of our four Advent candles, indicating that the time of waiting, reflection and preparation is almost over. As the year comes to an end, we reflect not just on the past and the present, but on the new beginning we can have in Christ. A life full of hope, faith, joy and peace.

 

We now light the fourth candle on the Advent wreath.

The first candle is the candle of hope;

the second is the candle of faith;

the third candle is the candle of joy;

the fourth candle is the candle of peace.

 

Today as we light the last candle, we open our hearts in expectation of the arrival of the Prince of Peace.

 

The fourth candle is lit.

 

Leader:           Loving God,

Heavenly Father, as we light the last Advent candle,

give light to our eyes and peace to our hearts.

May our Lord find us watching and waiting in joy

when He comes.

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

If you have a Jesse Tree, the next 5 symbols can be placed. You can download “The Christmas Wreath and Jesse Tree: A Guide for Family Reflections 2020” from the parish Website and the parish App for the reflections.

Or you can use this:

 

Today as we look at the completed Jesse tree, we meet some important people, each adding an important aspect to the salvation story. As we look at these people and events, Lord prepare our hearts that we may be fully prepared to celebrate the birth of Christ our saviour.

 

  • Nehemiah the Builder: When the Jewish people returned from exile in Babylon Nehemiah organised the rebuilding of Jerusalem and of the temple, and helped to restore the regular worship for the whole community. Once again, the temple became the centre of the people’s lives. In this way too our church today is the centre of our parish community, more than just a building. The church community gives us an identity that reflects Jesus.  (pause)

 

  • Angels: Special messengers from God, sent to bring very important news in this case to Mary. Lord, may we too hear your message of hope, during this coming Christmas season, may we too then rejoice with the angels and bring this hope, along with the angels to other who need to hear your message. (pause)

 

  • The Virgin Mary: The lily represents Mary. Mary who submitted to the Lord’s will, who is the mother of our Lord. We give her special honour for her obedience to God and example of motherhood. Mary through the ages continues to inspire and influence all who love her. Let us honour Mary and all our mothers, wives, aunts and sisters and all those who have shown us Mary’s love and comfort.  (pause)

 

  • Carpenters Tools: These are the tools of the carpenter’s trade, of Joseph to whom God entrusted the care of Mary. Joseph who was the faithful and devoted protector of Mary and the Christ child. Let us honour our own fathers, husbands, uncles, brothers who labour to provide for their children. (pause)

 

  • John the Baptist: John the child of promise. John was the ‘voice crying out in the wilderness’ that the prophet Isaiah foretold.  John called the people to be baptised and to repentance to be ready for the Messiah. So too Lord, let us hear this message and prepare our hearts for the Birth of Christ.  (pause)

 

The service continues with the Liturgy of the Word.

 

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5.8b-12.14a.16

 

Introduction to the reading: Today’s passage refers to the “Ark of God” which was a wooden chest overlayed by gold, where the stone tablets of the 10 Commandments were kept.  King David, rich and comfortable in his palace, felt the Ark deserved to be housed in similar splendour.  God will tell David that a physical building is not as important as the “house” (that is the dynasty) of David.  Christians have seen this prophecy fulfilled in Christ, who was born of the House of David.

 

A reading from the second Book of Samuel

When King David dwelt in his house,
and the Lord had given him
rest from all his enemies round about,
the king said to Nathan the prophet,
“See now, I dwell in a house of cedar,
but the ark of God dwells in a tent.”

And Nathan said to the king,
“Go, do all that is in your heart;
for the Lord is with you.”

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan,
“Go and tell my servant David,
‘Thus says the Lord:
Would you build me a house to dwell in?,
I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep,
that you should be prince over my people Israel;
and I have been with you wherever you went,
and have cut off all your enemies from before you;
and I will make for you a great name,
like the name of the great ones of the earth.
And I will appoint a place for my people Israel,
and will plant them,
that they may dwell in their own place,
and be disturbed no more;
and violent people shall afflict them no more, as formerly,
from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel;
and I will give you rest from all your enemies.
Moreover the Lord declares to you
that the Lord will make you a house.
When your days are fulfilled
and you lie down with your fathers,
I will raise up your offspring after you,
who shall come forth from your body,
and I will establish his kingdom.
I will be his father, and he shall be my son.
And your house and your kingdom
shall be made sure for ever before me;
your throne shall be established for ever.’”

 

The word of the Lord.

 

 Responsorial psalm: Ps 89:2-3.4-5.27 & 29

 R/:  I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord.

 

I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord;

through all ages my mouth will proclaim your fidelity.

I have declared your mercy is established forever,

Your fidelity stands firm as the heavens.

 

“With my chosen one I have made a covenant;

I have sworn to David my servant;

I will establish your descendants forever

And set up your throne through all ages”.

 

“He will call out to me, ‘You are my father,

my God, the rock of my salvation’.

I will keep my faithful love for him always;

with him my covenant shall last.

 R/: I will sing forever of your mercies, O Lord.

 

Second reading: Romans 16:25-27

Introduction to the reading: Our second Scripture reading is the conclusion of Paul’s long letter to the Romans.  It is one sentence, and it is very much like a toast offered to God.  In effect, Paul is saying that it all comes down to this: We should give thanks to God that salvation is available to all people through faith in Jesus Christ.

 

A reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Romans

Brothers and sisters,
To him who is able to strengthen you according to my Gospel
and the preaching of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery
which was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed
and through the prophetic writings is made known to all nations,
according to the command of the eternal God,
to bring about the obedience of faith –
to the only wise God be glory for evermore
through Jesus Christ! Amen.

The Word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.
Alleluia!

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

The angel Gabriel was sent from God
to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph,
of the house of David;
and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said,
“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
But she was greatly troubled at the saying,
and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be.
And the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found favour with God.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you shall call his name Jesus.
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High;
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever;
and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel,
“How will this be, since I know not man?”

And the angel said to her,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
therefore the child to be born will be called holy,
the Son of God.
And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age
has also conceived a son;
and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
For with God nothing will be impossible.”
And Mary said,  “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.”
And the angel departed from her.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

As a little girl climbed up into Father Christmas’s lap, Father Christmas asked the usual, “And what would you like for Christmas?” The little girl just stared at Father Christmas with her mouth open and horrified look on her face for a minute, and then she gasped: “Didn’t you get my E-mail?”  😊

That had to have been the same sort of horrified look that Mary must have had on her face when the Angel of the Lord appeared to her and spoke to her about God’s purpose for her life.

Today we hear the angel Gabriel announcing to Mary her coming pregnancy.

We are reminded that the baptized are also pregnant with the life of Christ. I know the thought of being pregnant with God may be an uncomfortable description for all the men here to ponder. But still, by the same overshadowing of the Spirit Mary experienced, we also bear the life of Christ with us and give birth to him in the world by our words and actions.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.”

The very same promise is spoken to us as well. The Spirit has been planted in us; new life given us. So a good thought to ponder as we approach the Christmas celebration is: How shall we nurture this new life?

Karl Rahner, the great Jesuit theologian, observed that when we say “Christ will come again,” – the word “again” is misleading because Christ has never really gone away. In his human existence Christ has never left us. Christ’s coming is always present and will someday come to fulfilment. It is not a matter of will Christ come – He will! The question is: how will we receive him? Christmastime is not merely a season of jingles and slogans. It’s not a nostalgic trip down memory lane, recalling Christmas from a more innocent, youthful past. Christ’s coming is a call to renewal and to transformation.

Mary can be our guide for the opportunity for renewal that the coming of Christ brings to us. Mary has an extraordinary encounter with the angel Gabriel. This encounter tells us that the child to be born is special. We hear that Joseph was “of the house of David.” That reminds us that what will happen to a seemingly insignificant couple in a remote village fits God’s plan for Israel. Once again God is reaching out to benefit humanity through the poor and fragile, people of no social rank.

Gabriel greeted Mary with the words: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!”
But she was greatly troubled at the saying. Why is Mary “greatly troubled?” Well, she is single and pregnant – that could cost her life. It could also be because those who were favoured by God in Israel’s history often had to suffer for their calling. Many of the prophets in Israel suffered considerably. Mary believes the angel’s news, but the issue is: how will all this happen, she is a virgin? The Spirit will come upon her with power, just as God’s presence came upon and stayed with Israel during its 40 year desert journey.

Mary is not just a young woman who agrees to bear the Son of God. Mary has the vital role of being a disciple as well. She is not a disciple because Jesus called her from her daily work to come and follow him. That was how the other disciples were called. Mary hears the good news the angel announced to her and responds it. A true disciple is one who hears and acts on the Word of God. From the very beginning of her life, Mary fits this description.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.”

Mary gives her full and willing consent to be part of God’s plan for redemption. That is a powerful moment. I am sure Mary could have thought, “I am just an insignificant woman with no power, or authority in the world.” She had plenty of reason to decline the angel’s invitation. But the messenger of God called on her faith in the God of Israel and she decides to throw her lot in with God. The angel told Mary of the pregnancy of her elderly cousin Elizabeth and then says, “For nothing will be impossible for God.” Notice the good news is about the present and the future. God comes among us now and journeys with us into our unpredictable and sometimes scary future.

Mary is not only a true disciple, she is also commissioned as a prophet. She hears God’s plan for humanity and accepts her role in it. By her consent she will give witness to God’s activity in the world. Though the angel promises that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, the future will not be easy for Mary. But she trusts the angel’s assurance that God’s presence will be with her. The same assurance we have by our baptism. When the Holy Spirit also “comes upon” us, we become hearers of God’s Word and we are invited to trust in the overshadowing presence of God’s Spirit with us. Which is what Mary did!

We may be fed up and tired of the waiting in Advent. But God never gets fed up with us. God will never abandon us. Our God is a God who created something out of nothing. God can do it again: God can be creative when there is very little to work with. When we think we are done, God is just beginning. If these days of the pandemic feel too much for us, then today’s gospel reminds us that we are not on our own. Once again God has noticed a needy people and is doing something about it. God gives us the grace and the strength and the talent to handle what’s happening in our lives. And we know this because Mary was able to say to God: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.”

And so with Mary we can pray, “Behold I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

From today’s Gospel reading:

The angel said to Mary, ” The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.

… for with God nothing will be impossible.”

Reflection:

Through our Baptism and Confirmation we too have been overshadowed by the Spirit and now we look for ways to let the Spirit be active through our lives as we serve the Lord. When we come up against obstacles and discouragement in our mission, we will hear an echo of today’s gospel, ” For with God nothing will be impossible.”

So we ask ourselves:

  • What do I need to do to say “Yes” to God in my life?
  • Do I trust that God will help me do what feels impossible on my own?

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 

Leader:          We pray for the wisdom to be good builders of the house of God and to recognise the gifts we have been given for this task.

 

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis, our pastoral leader and guide: (pause) that the Lord will bless him as he seeks to continue to build the house of God in our own time.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all bishops, priests and leaders in the Church:  (pause) that they seek the discernment they need to exercise leadership with humility and respect for those entrusted to their care.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all those involved in the building of shelters for those who have been displaced from their homes by violence and war: (pause) may they be safe from harm as they undertake their ministry of mercy.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all expectant mothers who are awaiting the arrival of their babies: (pause) may they joyfully welcome these very precious gifts this Christmas.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for the entire people of God: (pause) that they may help to build the kingdom of God in their homes and in their hearts.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all who are fighting the Coronavirus: (pause) that God will strengthen caregivers, inspire researchers, and guide those who will be distributing the vaccine.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

 

Leader:          Let us pray our prayer for Advent:

 

Father in heaven,

our hearts desire the warmth of your love

and our minds are searching for the light of your Word.

Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour

and give us the strength to grow in love,

that the dawn of his coming

may find us rejoicing in his presence

and welcoming the light of his truth.

Your eternal Word took flesh on our earth

when the Virgin Mary placed her life

at the service of your plan.

Lift our minds in watchful hope

to hear the voice which announces his glory

and open our minds to receive the Spirit

who prepares us for his coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

 

 

 

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 

All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:           Pour forth, O Lord, your grace into our hearts:

once through the message of an angel

you revealed to us the incarnation of Christ your Son;

now lead us through his passion and cross

to the glory of the resurrection.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Blessing

 

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All:                 Amen.