Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. The Gospel reading for today (Luke 1:26-38) refers to The Annunciation. This story may seem a little out of place on the Fourth Sunday of Advent. We may ask should not this have happened months ago? In liturgical tradition the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25, exactly nine months before Christmas Day. (Yes, tradition would have us believe Jesus was a perfect full-term baby!) However, the function of this story in our Advent journey is not biology but theology, not history but mystery. So with it comes the critical question: How will we respond to the news of God's advent among us?

The Annunciation refers to the news delivered by the angel Gabriel to Mary. Her initial response is a stunned, numbed silence at the magnitude of this announcement. Of course, tradition holds that Mary was not speechless for long. The awe-struck silence of the Annunciation is matched only by the shocking lyrics of her subsequent song which we refer to as the Magnificat. Both her silence and her singing make clear that she "gets" it - better than we have, ever since. In case there be any doubt about how deep is Mary's understanding of the personal and political implications of what is at stake, consider this revealing illustration from colonial history: during the movement for independence from British rule in India, the Church of England actually prohibited the recitation or singing of the Magnificat in services of Evening Prayer for fear that it might incite revolution.

Fear is a big industry and for obvious reasons we have become a society of fear. At the root of this anxiety or fear is a focus upon self. Fear in our society is symptomatic of a culture that is self-absorbed. It has forgotten God. One of the first words Gabriel spoke to Mary were, "Do not be afraid Mary, you have found favour with God." The opposite of fear is faith! Mary's fears were dispelled and from her lips came words of trust: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word." It was faith that motivated a young girl and her fiancé to travel the hard journey to Bethlehem.

God helps us move from fear to faith quickly. Fear is an emotion related to failure. It tells us to give up. It reminds us that things are hopeless. Mary's response of faith is encouraging. "For nothing is impossible with God." Faith is not a pie-in-the sky, deny reality hope for better things activity, but an understanding of the faithfulness of God every day. God's word to us always brings hope and faith. The season of Advent refers to our hope of His coming to restore all things to a glorious conclusion.

There's a story of a little boy who was trapped on the second floor of a burning building. "Jump!" his father calls out to him. "I will catch you." Full of fear, the little boy cries out timidly, "But, father, I can't see you."

His father's reply? "That is true, but I can see you."

In the end that is what matters. Not always that we can see God, but that God can see us in all the situations of our lives. Every moment. Every day. DO NOT BE AFRAID.

Rev'd. Fr. Colin Humes