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The Lord is with you; for you have found favour with God.

These two statements made to Mary by the angel Gabriel are, for me, two of the most powerful lines in all of Scripture.

They speak two truths not only about Mary but about you and I. For years I would read this story and many others in Scripture like I was an interested spectator but not really involved in the story. I have come to realize that I am involved in the story because it’s my story. Just as the Lord was with Mary 2000 years ago in the town of Nazareth, He is with me today. And just as Mary had found favour with God, I believe I have as well; at least that’s my understanding of the message Mary’s son came to deliver.

For over 10 years I did baptism preparation in the parish of St. Augustine’s, and I would begin each session by reading Matthew’s version of the baptism of Jesus. The reading finishes with Jesus coming up from the water and a voice from heaven saying, “this is my Son the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” I would then tell them that God is not only speaking about Jesus, but is speaking about their child as well, and indeed about them. I could tell by the reaction of most gathered that this was not something they had thought of before, but the more they did, the more they liked the idea. I don’t know if you are a person who considers yourself as someone who has found favour with God, or if you walk daily with the knowledge that the Lord is with you. If you are not, I can totally understand. Sometimes the situations we find ourselves in, and the fact that, often times, “when it rains, it pours”, can leave us feeling overwhelmed and wondering what in the world am I going to do? At these times, God seems distant at best.

Today’s gospel reminds us that being open to God’s plan for us and answering God’s call to service does not mean that life will be “peaches and cream” from here on in. When Mary said yes to the angel, she did so with the knowledge that being unwed and pregnant in her day was punishable by death. Not to mention the task of explaining everything to Joseph. I don’t think Mary had any illusions of this being an easy walk, but what she did have was a deep understanding that she was a part of something, and connected to someone much bigger than her and her current situation. So are we.
This season of Advent has so much to teach us about the value of patience. When life is not going as we had hoped; when none of the plans we had made are working out and when the foundation we had laid is showing cracks, be patient and know that the Lord is with you and that you indeed have found favour with God. The patience we show in the Advents of our lives will always lead to the fulfilment of God’s promise. Remember, the next time angels visit women in Luke’s gospel, they are proclaiming the resurrection.

May the God of fulfilled promises fill you with joy and peace this Christmas and throughout the year.

Mark Mahoney

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