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2023-12-24 Advent 4

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen!

Arguably the greatest musician of the modern era … Meatloaf (🤣)… had a song released back in 1993 entitled “I would do anything for love (But I won’t do that)”. It was quite popular, becoming the number 1 song in 28 countries and sold over 1.4 million copies in the US where it remained the chart topper for 5 weeks straight. It’s got a pretty good rockin’ beat and some nice ballad type music sections to it giving it extra appeal throughout it’s 8 minute length. But there is a bit of a mystery surrounding the song. I would do anything for love – but I won’t do ‘that.’ Scientists and indepenedent fact checkers are still trying to figure out what “that” is to this very day!

It’s one of these sappy, romantic songs about human love and devotion. It’s all the amazing things a man would gladly do for his woman: paying for dinner and the movie, taking out the garbage, trying to impress her with poorly thought out feats of strength. Perhaps more simple things like putting the toilet seat down! All of these things and more a love struck man will do for his bonnie lass. But, he won’t do that. There is a limit to human love and devotion. There is a caveat, a ‘Plan B,’ an exception. His love only goes so far.

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (LK 1:26-33).

The angel Gabriel came to Mary with this unbelievable news. A ‘life event’ as the insurance salesmen call it. Mary, you’ve found favour with the Big Guy and you’re gonna have a baby boy named Jesus. Don’t be alarmed, but He’s going to be the Saviour of the world and be God in the flesh! This is an odd and off the wall event as they come! But even stranger is Mary’s answer: “And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”” Can you imagine? Mary faithfully accepts this message from God. Her entire life is about to be flipped upside down on its head! A child out of wedlock in those days? Often such people would be stoned to death for their immoral iniquity. If not that extreme, the judgemental eyes of everyone else around town leering at you for breaking God’s law as the evidence of your presumed sin grows bigger and bigger each day! But the Lord had chosen Mary. She found favour in His eyes. And as a reward, her entire life as she knew it would change. The salvation of the world would come from the fruit of her womb. You could hear Mary singing right along with Meatloaf “I would do anything for love” – but that’s where the song stops with Mary. There are no ifs, ands, buts or maybes. There is no “that.” Her love and obedience for God was truly unconditional – even at great personal cost to her.

Unconditional love. That’s the last candle on the Advent wreath today. People talk a lot about this kind of love. Young people who are filled with hearts all a flutter, they go on and on about how in love they are. When everything is new and fresh and exciting, it’s truly enchanting! It quickly grows into promises like to have and to hold, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish till death do us part. People honestly start out fully devoted with these best of intentions. But then “that” rears it’s ugly head. Perhaps adultery. Abuse. Abandonment. Then our love and zeal begins to crack before breaking into a billion pieces. Sin rises up to the surface and that once burning ring of fire of our love is snuffed out and goes cold.

All too often this is our fallen human experience when it comes to relationships. Not only between husband and wife but between child and parent, sibling and siblings, worker and coworker, pastor and parishioners. Quite often it is the opposite of love. The darkness of hatred fills human hearts. Refusing to forgive. Refusing to reconcile. But St. John is pretty clear on this one: “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1JN 3:15). So we cannot have hatred as part of our story. For we belong to a God of love. St. John also tells us that “God is love” (1JN 4:8). And God’s love for us is perfect, despite our flaws and sins.

This really is the whole point of Christmas. That God loved the world so much that He did not spare but rather sent His only Son into our world, incarnate of the Virgin Mary. This is the truest expression of unconditional love. Love that literally would stop at nothing. No strings attached. Jesus did anything for love. No ifs, ands, buts or maybes. His love and obedience to our Heavenly Father was absolutely unconditional. His death on the cross was the utmost outpouring of love the world has every seen – even at great cost to Him. He willingly, of His own accord, gave up His life for you that you may live forever. There is no “won’t do that” with Jesus.

This is why Elizabeth, so filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed with a loud cry to Mary “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Mary was the willing servant of the Lord in ushering in hope, peace, joy and love into our world. Her soul magnified the Lord and rejoiced in God her Saviour. We too as God’s Baptized people likewise rejoice because Jesus is our Saviour too. And we, like Mary, bear Christ within us by faith. It is the grace and mercy of God in Christ Jesus that fills our hearts with His amazing love this Christmas season. A love that knows no limits, has no strings and is not limited by conditions and caveats of any kind.

This is the heart of Christmas. Being a willing servant of the Lord our God. Heeding His call to love one another without conditions or plan B loopholes. For He truly has done great things for each and everyone of us. He has given us the best present in the history of the world, the Good Lord Jesus. He has welcomed us into His family in our Baptism and has made us partakers of His Divine nature in Holy Communion. He has included us in His Kingdom of hope, peace, joy and love, a Kingdom that has no end. He has made us to be like Mary, favoured by His grace, and overflowing with love and mercy. The great mystery of the incarnation, God putting on human flesh and becoming one of us is all because of His great love that He has for you. How humbling and amazing this is! Our final Advent candle reminds us that Christmas is truly all about our God who would do - and did do - anything for love. Amen! Come Lord Jesus!

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