Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Calendar - December 24 (Morning Mass)

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16; Luke 1:67-79

Reflection by Sister Kimberly Mandelkow
Minister of Music and Liturgy, Sts. Joseph and Paul Catholic Church, Owensboro, Kentucky

Music helps me get into the Christmas season. I love Christmas music — "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Once in Royal David’s City," "Joy to the World." I also love the secular Christmas songs — "I’ll be Home for Christmas." I think of the movie White Christmas with all those soldiers longing to be home. I think of those, like myself, having to be away from home at Christmas because of jobs and long-distance travel.

I think Luke the evangelist liked music too! Have you ever noticed that Luke’s stories of Advent and Christmas are full of music? Read the beginning of Luke’s gospel and you can almost hear the singing: Mary sings…Elizabeth sings… Angels sing…Anna sings…Simeon sings…everybody is singing in Luke! In today’s gospel passage we hear Zechariah sing.

Before we can appreciate the power of the song, we must first understand the story behind the song. It’s the story of an old couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, living more than 2000 years ago in the hill country of Judea. They have no children, which during that time and place was an embarrassment and even grounds for divorce. Yet they love each other and have stayed together over the years, learning to live with their loss and accept their fate. I wonder if they ever asked God, “Why?” Yet they remain faithful. In fact, Zechariah is a priest and still does his priestly duties.

One day an angel comes to Zechariah and says what angels seem to always say: Fear not! Don’t be afraid! Something new and wonderful is about to happen: Elizabeth will conceive and bear you a son and he shall be named John. I can only imagine that Zechariah was stunned. He and Elizabeth gave up that dream long ago! Then the angel strikes him mute! Speechless! He can’t even proclaim the good news to his neighbors and friends.

Now fast-forward nine months. Nine months of silence and finally the child is born and they name him John, which means God is gracious. John is born as a sign of the great mercy of God and the power of God to do new things even in the life of an elderly and barren couple — even in the life of a barren nation, a barren people who had given up hope for redemption. Maybe they had even given up God a long time ago as they suffered through Assyrian, Babylonian, and now Roman occupation.

And what are the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth? Not, “It’s a boy!” but instead, praise and gratitude! Zechariah praises God for what God has done and is about to do for God’s people through the coming of the Messiah. Zechariah is celebrating what God has done in the birth of John who will prepare us for what God is about to do. John is preparing us to receive a gift by giving us the knowledge of our salvation through the tender and loving mercy of God which will shine upon us and shine upon our darkness and confusion.

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