20th December. Friday in the 3rd Week of Advent
First Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14
(King Ahaz refuses to ask God for a sign; then Isaiah promises a child to be called Immanuel).
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
(The angelic annunciation to Mary, the highly-favoured one:she will conceive of the Spirit, and give birth to Jesus.)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel as sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 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 ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
The Annunciation story is full of splendid promise, radiant with a bright future. God’s messenger tells of a coming Saviour: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High… He will reign forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Setting these lines alongside all the other echoes of joy in Luke’s opening chapters, and we have the happy prospect of a God who wants every human being to be saved – to have a share in God’s own endless fullness of life.
Perhaps the fifth century saint Caesarius of Arles was thinking of today’s joyful Scriptures when he wrote that “God never deserts anyone, unless He is first deserted by that one. For even if one has committed grievous sins once, twice, and a third time, God still looks for him, so that he may be converted and live.”