Christ’s Imminent Arrival

“The Annunciation” (detail) by Federico Barocci [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“If the Incarnation doesn’t bewilder you, you’re not thinking about it enough.”

The readings at Mass today explode with anticipation. We have waited patiently during these weeks. Throughout Advent, the daily Mass readings have highlighted various prophecies. They have spoken about the coming of John the Baptist. We have heard about the mountains being made low and feasts set on high places.

These last few days, beginning with December 17, the anticipation has heightened. In the octave before Christmas, the daily Mass Gospels turn to focus on the Infancy Narratives from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This is also the time of the O Antiphons. We should begin to feel a type of crescendo towards Christmas.

Today’s first reading is the sign for Ahaz found in Isaiah: “the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall name him Emmanuel.” Then, the Gospel reveals the fulfillment of this sign with the story of the Annunciation. Hearing the daily Mass readings turn in this way should excite and energize us. They are a sure sign that Christmas is only a few days away. 

Perhaps these stories are too familiar to us. Ahaz’s sign isn’t shocking to us anyone. A virgin shall conceive? Of course. Gabriel’s visit to Mary isn’t surprising. Nazareth? Sure. Even the Incarnation doesn’t faze us. A baby born in a manger is God? Naturally.

We must not allow ourselves to overlook the mystery because it has become too familiar. When we hear these readings, they should astound us. They should stir up gratitude within us. We should live differently because of the Incarnation.

Honestly, if the Incarnation doesn’t bewilder you, you’re not thinking about it enough. If these stories have ceased to amaze us, we need to meditate on them more. In these last days of Advent, let us ask God to open these familiar stories to us in a new way.

If this Advent hasn’t been your best—if you’ve gotten swept up in the chaos of the “holiday season” or if commitments and responsibilities have prevented you from slowing down—it’s not too late. In the midst of this octave before Christmas, let’s turn our eyes to the real season we are in. Take extra time for prayer. Return to the familiar Scripture stories. Attempt to enter into the peace and stillness of these last few days, even if the world wants to pull you elsewhere.

Christ’s arrival is imminent. Will we be prepared to welcome Him?

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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College, and the Diocese of Nashville. She is currently a full-time Catholic speaker and writer. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her nine nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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