Christmas is coming! And some are asking the question, Why do you want to introduce Jesus into this secular feast? This is the feast of the reindeers and the sleigh, the feast of that over-weight gentleman dressed in red and white. Is that so? It is also, so we are told, the feast of family arguments, of domestic violence...
Christmas is coming! And if Christ is not in it, we may have been celebrating something, but not Christmas! The wonder of Christmas is the incarnation - that God the Son became a human being, that God came into our human history, not just as the Lord to whom we would all be responsible at the end of time, but as a participant. He came, not just to show us up or to show us how, but to live his life for us and to give his life for us. He came to be the Saviour, Christ the Lord.
Christmas is the time to remember the promise fulfilled.
For centuries now the Jewish people had been living in hope. Things had actually been rather grim for them. They were the chosen people, but over much of their history had regarded that with selfishness rather than responsibility. Often they had wanted to play it safe and had mixed the worship of the Lord with the gods of surrounding tribes and nations.
But things had changed. Of course, they expected Jehovah to be a little upset about their disloyalty - but not the exiles and suffering that scarred their national life. Again and again they were oppressed under some foreign regime. But then it happened. The rulers responsible for them after the death of Alexander the Great were determined to stamp out Jewish religion and practice. It became an offence to keep the sabbath day. Mothers were put to death for circumcising their sons. The temple in Jerusalem was defiled by the image of a Greek god.
It was in this climate that the Pharisees arose. Keeping the Law went to almost fanatical extremes. From that point the nation did not turn to other gods. But their religion became more and more a matter of keeping the ritual and the law. God had promised Abraham a blessing so that he could become a blessing to the nations of the world. But Judaism became almost exclusively focussed on themselves as an oppressed nation.
So they almost missed the fulfilment. They weren't ready for it at all.
How would God the Son come into the world as a real human being?
Some clues in Isaiah - the virgin will conceive and bear a son and his name will be called Immanuel, God with us. To us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government shall be on his shoulder and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.
But at God's right time, that meant a particular person had to become the mother of the one who was promised. Our reading graphically describes the meeting of Gabriel and Mary.
Ready with faith in the one whom God sent to be Saviour and Lord?
Ready with expectation of all that God is going to do in our despairing world?
Ready, as Mary had to be, for God's fulfilments through us?