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RELIGION LITURGY AND LIFE

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This weekend we come to the last Sunday of the Advent season. In our churches we light the last purple candle as well as the other three leaving the last candle the white one for the first Mass of Christmas Day. It’s only in this last week before Christmas that we begin to hear about the “Christmas story” itself. For the past weeks we have been preparing ourselves to greet the Lord, when he comes. Now we prepare to remember how he first came, by listening to the prophecies of his coming, and by hearing of the events before his birth. We meet Mary, who herself had been prepared for the coming of the Messiah. She has received the angel’s greeting, and his strange news, and has accepted her role in God’s plan. Now she hurries to her kinswoman, Elizabeth, who herself bears John the Baptist in her womb. John,  alerts us to the presence of the Lord, as he leaps for joy in his mother’s womb. His joy is that God has kept his promise, and is with his people.

On the days before the feast of Christmas, and on this final Sunday, the gospel read at Mass is taken from the first chapter of Matthew’s gospel or the first chapter of Luke’s. Today’s gospel passage is unique because it presents a meeting between the mothers of the two men. The story, known as the ‘Visitation’, follows the account of the Annunciation to Mary of the coming birth of the Saviour, which ended with Mary’s ‘Yes’ to God and her words, ‘let what you have said be done to me’. (Luke 1:38) As Mary welcomed the coming of the Lord into her body, now John, as yet unborn, welcomes his arrival too. If we continue to read the gospel beyond today’s passage we hear the words of Mary’s hymn of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, prayed daily by the Church at Evening Prayer.This last Sunday of Advent gives us a brief time to reflect upon and kindle within ourselves the light of the incarnate Lord. The foundation is laid for what we will find at the manger.

Now as  having made our final preparation to join the shepherds and the angels in their Joy, great joy in what God has done for us we go forth in peace to greet the Lord remembering that Jesus Christ the Son of God the light in the darkness is the reason for the season.

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