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Youth Ministry Resources - 4th Sunday in Advent

Year B: Luke 1:26-38 - The Annunciation - 4th Sunday in Advent

This well known Gospel passage has also become a well loved prayer - The Hail Mary, a prayer many of us use each day and perhaps because of our familiarity we can miss some significant parts of this passage. Angels are not really a part of our common experience today but they are frequently described in the Scriptures and often when it comes to announcing an unexpected birth eg. Abraham and Sarah of Isaac and then there is Sampson and Samuel. This "good news" shows that the expectations of the past are now being fulfilled and that God's plan is being accomplished.

This particular angel is saying some powerful things to Mary and using language that must be taken seriously. It is worth remembering that Mary was probably about 14 and while betrothed to Joseph, was still living with her parents because of her age. It is worth reflecting on how a 14 year old girl today would respond to such a message. It was clear however, that Mary was undoubtedly open to listening to what the angel was asking of her despite the shocking nature of the request.

Mary's virgin conception was through the power of God's Holy Spirit and this truth has been protected and upheld since the earliest time of the Reign of God movement with the pre 50AD Creed incorporating this reality and has been maintained throughout history.

The Scriptures state that Mary "was deeply disturbed" and yet, despite this, Mary is a model of openness and receptivity, regardless of the apparent impossibility of what is being asked and the prospect of subsequent hardships. This passage is one I have frequently spent time reflecting on and this has lead me to prayer that is more open to listening to God and helps put aside those urges to ask God to do things.

We all try to organise our lives to suit us and it is a pity that God does not see things quite the same way. There are just so many things that appear clear to us that would be the best result and so we go about asking God to sort things the way we have planned. However, by spending time with this passage God is teaching us to be still and be open to what God's plan for us might be.

Once we are quiet and reflecting on the goodness of God we are more likely to be open to what God has in mind for us. Yes, it might be different to what God asked of Mary but it could be just as shocking but the joy of it all is that when we say "yes" to God it might turn our world upside down but we end up in a most peaceful place. It might be like Mary's situation - filled with apparent impossibility with the prospect of subsequent hardships but we are never alone and we are filled with peace because of Emmanuel - God-with-us.

Cate Mapstone

Year C: Matt 1:18-24 - How Jesus came to be born - 4th Sunday in Advent

As Advent draws to a close we hear about Jesus and how he came to be born. Joseph is betrothed to Mary and the normal age of girls at betrothal is 12 ½. Girls often stayed with their families during this betrothal time until the time was right to be married.

We know little of Joseph except that he was a son of David and some scholars have suggested that he was quite a bit older than Mary and could have been a widower with a family. We know that Mary was a very young girl when the angel appeared to her and she accepted God's plan for her. We read that Joseph was a righteous and just man which means he is obedient to the Law. When Joseph heard that Mary was pregnant, then the letter of the Law was to have an adulteress stoned. But, Joseph was also a compassionate man which prevents him from extracting the full penalty of the Law, hence his decision to "divorce her informally."

With both Mary and Joseph receiving visits from an angel, these visits sound almost commonplace, but it is not so much the angel that is the focus rather the will of God being made known to them. Joseph is assured that Mary is not an adulteress and by naming the child, Joseph acts as a legal father. It can appear as if Jesus is being given two names - Jesus and Emmanuel. However, he is named Jesus by Joseph, a name based on a Hebrew name meaning "YHWH is salvation" and later when Jesus is ministering to the people and they experience his charism, his miracles, his teaching, his understanding of God, and as a result "they will call him Emmanuel."

It is by experiencing the man Jesus that people will understand that God is with them. Jesus is saying, "I will be your God and you will be my people." There is a wonderful intimacy in this statement that is most attractive. Through the life of Jesus where he worked to bring about the Reign of God and through his death where he brings salvation to the world, Jesus continues to be 'God with us' through the Church in its communal life today. It is here in community that we can continue to experience Emmanuel and by getting to know Jesus.

It is here in community that we are nourished by God's Word and Sacraments to be the face of God to those around us, to be on Mission to ensure that 'God with us' become a common experience for more people, it is all about bringing peace to our part of the world.

Cate Mapstone

YOUTH ANGLE: "This is how the birth of Christ came about."

This is how the birth of Christ came about. Mary had to agree to God's will. Joseph had to follow the advice and "Be not afraid". This is how the birth of Christ came about. This is how miracles can occur. If we agree to God's will. If we are not afraid. Or else it won't happen. No miracles. No amazing things. God's plan of Jesus being born into the world in poverty - as a leader and example for all - could not have happened if there were no humans ready to go with it.

Our Creator can see the whole picture of what is going on: the future and the past, as well as the East and the West. Which is why it's probably a good idea to trust and go with it. But too often we block it because we want our own way - not God's. And we are too afraid. Of what people will think or say. Or too afraid of losing control. If we want to see God at work, we have to go with God's will and we have to "Be not afraid". This is how the birth of Christ came about. And this is how more miracles will come about. If we let them.

Manuela Macri

Youth Ministry Resources 4th Sunday in Advent
Click the Pope for more Youth Ministry Resources.

Youth Ministry Resources 4th Sunday in Advent