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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Looby

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2023

I took this picture in the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth in November of 2022. The latin inscription on the altar reads "The Word became!"

As we light the fourth candle on this 4th Sunday of Advent, which this year uniquely coincides with Christmas Eve, we find ourselves standing on the threshold of the Nativity - the celebration of the birth of Christ.

You may recall that last November, I visited the Holy Land—a pilgrimage that carried me and my fellow pilgrims halfway across the world to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

In the town of Nazareth, we visited the Church of the Annunciation built over the place where Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she was going to be the mother of God.  A story that we just heard in the gospel reading from Luke. 

In the crypt of the church there is an altar in front of the cave where Mary was fetching water and encountered the angel. Carved upon it are words that resonate with the promise of salvation: 

Verbum caro hic factum est. 

"Here the Word was made flesh." Not just anywhere, but HERE!

HERE - In a humble corner of the world, God's infinite love was cradled in the willing heart of Mary. 

HERE is where the divine embraced humanity. 

HERE is where the eternal entered time, where the Savior of all was nestled before He lay in the manger.

Today's Gospel beckons us to that very moment, inviting us to witness once more the angel Gabriel's message and Mary's faithful response (may it be done to me according to your word),  A dialogue that forever altered the fabric of our reality. 

The Annunciation signifies God’s intimate gesture towards us, a prelude to the greatest gift ever given—Jesus Christ. 

And the “Word became flesh” not just in a historical HERE of long ago, but seeks to do so in the ever-present HERE of our daily lives.

The German philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “that at Christmas, Christ is born in mangers all over the world—but it is all for naught if He is not born in our hearts.” 

As I stood in that sacred place where Heaven met Earth, it became profoundly clear: the true miracle of Christmas is not only in the historical incarnation but in the invitation for Christ to be born within us, HERE and now.

-Spend some time in quiet prayer. Reflect on the Nativity story, not just as a tale of old, but as a narrative that is alive and unfolding in your life today.

-In these final hours of Advent, practice small acts of kindness and love. Each act is a straw laid in the manger of your heart, preparing a warm welcome for Christ.

-If there are strained relationships or unresolved conflicts, seek reconciliation. Forgiveness and peace are like swaddling clothes that prepare our hearts to receive the newborn King.

-Take a moment to count your blessings. Recognizing God’s gifts in your life makes room for gratitude, which is an essential part of preparing our hearts for Jesus.

-Finally, cultivate a sense of holy anticipation. Just as the world waited for the Messiah, let your heart be filled with expectation and joy for the coming of Christ.

So, on this day, as Advent gives way to Christmas, let us cultivate the manger of our hearts for the Christ child. 

Let us, like Mary, be open and willing, ready to echo her YES with our lives. Let us be the HERE where love takes root and flourishes. 

For the Word became flesh to dwell among us—right here in our hearts—and this is the miracle we are called to live and proclaim every Advent,  every Christmas, and indeed, every day.

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