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A Weary, Waiting World
Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent: Mass in the Morning
Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hand of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, I come before you with the whole weary, waiting world on this day, the last day before your Son and my Savior is born. With Mary and Joseph, with Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, I walk one day closer to the manger. Open my heart in this time of prayer to hear and receive your Word. I believe you are close to me, even if I do not feel it, and that you have something to say to me today.
- The Holy Spirit Spoke: In one hymn of praise, the Holy Spirit made this moment sacred and timeless through Zechariah. Zechariah’s words were not just for the close family members and friends who were gathered in his home that day. In Zechariah’s son, John the Baptist, was found the culmination of all the waiting, weary world: “He has come to his people and set them free.” Let this truth settle into our hearts. “He has raised up for us a mighty Savior… He remembers his holy covenant.” He came to free, to save, and to remember his promises to us.
- The Holy Spirit Worked within Zechariah: The words that rose up from Zechariah’s heart were very different from the ones he first spoke in response to God’s announcement of the good news nine months prior. Then, he doubted the message, making excuses for what he thought was beyond God’s power. But in this Gospel passage, he opened his mouth in words of praise and faith. What had happened during those nine months while John was growing in Elizabeth’s womb? Somehow, his doubt had been transformed into faith and receptivity. His became a humbled faith, a purified acceptance that sometimes God’s ways are different than ours; always, they are greater. His can be a message of hope for those of us who doubt God’s ways. Let’s ask for Zechariah’s intercession so that our doubts may be purified by hope and become opportunities for us to praise God’s faithfulness too.
- God’s Goodness: Zechariah ended his hymn of praise–one which is repeated every morning by priests, religious, and lay people across the globe in the Liturgy of the Hours–by recognizing the “tender compassion of our God.” Very soon, this tender compassion would take flesh in the newborn Christ child. Is there any better way God could have chosen to come to reveal his tenderness and compassion than a perfect, precious newborn? It is as though God wants to call forth from within us the very tender love he feels when he looks upon us, his children. He is the dawn of hope which rises upon our world, which shines on the shadowy darkness to guide us to his peace. Yet, his is a light which he will never impose; he only invites. I open my heart to receive and answer the Lord’s imminent invitation.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, this night you will be born anew into our world, into my world. Together with Zechariah, I open my hands and heart to you in faith, you who forever hold me in your hands and heart. Come soon, and tarry not, Infant King. Purify my hope and strengthen my faith that I may receive you as you choose to come: lowly, humble, and human.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will consider gently inviting a family member or friend to Christmas Mass, and, whatever their answer, I will pray that they receive the grace to know Christ as their savior who comes to them in love.
For Further Reflection: Have you read the announcement of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord from the Roman Martyrology before? Here’s a link with more information and for further reflection.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families she’s there to serve.