Homily for Sunday 23rd December - Fourth Sunday of Advent


This weekend, many tens of thousands of people all over the world will be queueing up …. to be stranded in an airport! Not because they want to be stranded in an airport, and not all of them because they want a week or two under the winter sun in some foreign climate; but many of them in the hope of jetting off to visit family and friends for Christmas. And even if we’ll not be travelling very far for Christmas, many of us will probably be visiting more locally with family and friends – or they might come to visit us.

Children more than most will be expecting a visitor, whose visit will result in toys and presents left under the tree for them to open on Christmas morning: While mums and dads can expect a visit from the postman to bring them their credit card bills …. some visits we look forward to, others we don’t!

There’s some visiting going on in today’s Gospel reading: Mary travels out to a town in the hill country of Judah to visit her elderly relative Elizabeth. In fact this scenario of an encounter between two heavily (and surprisingly!) pregnant women, we call “The Visitation” which those who pray the Rosary will know as the Second Joyful Mystery of that prayer. And it’s a great story for us to hear just before Christmas. Because Christmas celebrates the greatest Visitor in the whole of human history: God visiting his people in the person of Christ some 2000 years ago. And his visit to the world began in just the same way that each of our visit to the world begins too, through the door of a mother’s womb.

“At the sound of you” said Elizabeth “the child in my womb leapt for joy!” Those of you who’ve recently been or still are pregnant would appreciate that more than the rest of us: the baby inside her kicked! Both mother and baby, the baby who would later grow up to be called The Baptist, already understand who their visitor is in the Child that has made his home in Mary’s womb. And it’s with that same joy that we recognise the visit of Christ, born of Mary, to us.

But the visit of Jesus to the world wasn’t over in a day or in nine months or even in a lifetime. Because Jesus didn’t just stop-by for a quick visit: he moved in: He moved into our history and our hearts, our problems and our pain, our worries and our wounds, our dreams and our hopes, our past and our present and our future, our life and our death. In Jesus, God came to visit and he never left.

Christmas is a time for renewing family relationships and friendships; even for mending them if maybe we’ve let them break down. At this time of the year we try to be especially warm and welcoming to one another, even to homeless and hungry strangers who we might have never met. But most of all, it’s a time to be especially welcoming to the Lord too, welcoming him into the places in our hearts and lives where we sometimes have told him: “There’s no room for you in this inn.”

Week after week, even day after day, the Lord renews his visit to us, joining our lives with his and his with ours here in the communion of the Eucharist. As we welcome friends and family this Christmas, and as the Lord welcomes us here time and time again, may we welcome him and, like Mary, come to know the blessedness of those who believe that the promise made by the visit of the Lord to us will be fulfilled.