Luke Hlavin is the Director of Programs for Annunciation Heights.
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus.” – Luke 1:30-31
In this blessed season of Advent, the Church reflects upon the great mystery of the Incarnation and all that God worked to bring about his enfleshment in time. We are invited to pray through and even tangibly feel the virtue of hope, marveling that God so powerfully entered into our lives, our history, and even our sin. As a people of hope, we do well to approach this season with intention, and in this way reap the fruits of holy anticipation.
In a special way, too, the Church invites us to look to the Blessed Mother in her example of humility and gentleness. She, the chosen instrument of God, by her Fiat brought into the world God himself. Though fully human, she remained sinless, and through her virtue was able to bring to fruition the great promise of the ages. Brought about by means of her “yes,” Christ’s coming not only sanctifies us but first meets us exactly where we are at.
It is this theme that rings especially true for all of us here at Annunciation Heights this Advent: the entrance of Christ into time, to meet all people right where they are. This motif is central to the narrative of the Annunciation (after which Annunciation Heights takes its name!). And from it there remains so much for all of us to learn, as we seek to carry out the mission which we have been given as Christians, as disciples.
Yes, the mystery of the Incarnation is the mystery of God meeting us right where we are at. God steps into the mundane daily life of Mother Mary in a powerful way, encountering her quite dramatically through a meeting with an angel. Nine months later, Christ Himself, in a profoundly humble way, is born in a stable and placed to rest in a manger. God does not wait for the ideal time or place to make Himself known. Rather, in the fullness of time, He deems to step into history in a direct way, fully embracing the reality of human sin and weakness.
What a powerful lesson this is to all of us working in the mission field, be it here at Annunciation Heights or elsewhere! If God Himself can encounter humanity in its brokenness, how much more ought we meet those around us with the same openness and humble love! This profound encounter, right where the other is at, is central to the mystery of the Incarnation, and therefore central to what it means to be a Christian.
Encounter does not stop there, though. It is not enough for us to meet people in their weakness and stop at that. No! Like Christ, who stooped down into humanity to raise us up to our full potential as children of God, so too we must invite all those we encounter to move from weakness to strength. This is the true meaning of evangelization, of mission, and of encounter. The Gospel is full of examples of Christ meeting the sick, the broken, the weak. He meets them first, and then exhorts them to conversion and healing, accompanying them along the way. This, ultimately, is the paradigm of true encounter, a model first begun in the Annunciation itself.
Truly, each and every one of us yearns to encounter God. We ache for his coming into our lives, and long to have our fears cast out, just as the angel Gabriel said to the Blessed Virgin. We pray to know and feel the favor of God, and work to make that a reality in the lives of others. As we continue this season of Advent, let this time be filled with hope, marveling at the depth of Christ’s humility, entering our world and our lives. And may we seek to model all we do on this encounter, welcoming Christ into our lives and inviting others to do the same.