Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Reflection for Dec. 24, 2023 -- Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reflection for Dec. 24, 2023 -- Fourth Sunday of Advent

Promise, hope, fulfillment

God everlasting reign of love is revealed  time after time

by Sister Francis Bangert

Sunday's readings for the Fourth Sunday in Advent describe in rich imagery the unfolding mystery of Emmanuel -- God with us. In 2 Samuel we hear “the kingdom of David will endure forever.” In Romans, we hear “the mystery hidden for ages has now been made manifest.” And in Luke, “You will conceive and bear a son.” Promise, hope, fulfillment -- ingredients for a life well lived and made visible in the lives of Elizabeth and Mary. I offer a beautiful poem written by Fr. Harry Hagan, OSB (St. Meinrad Archabbey) for your reflection.

Two women meet,
cousins yet more than kin —
bound to one another
by pregnant surprise.

Their unpredictable God has laughed at nature
and made the childless and the virgin bear.

She of the leaping womb thought barren
bears the restlessness of her God.

And the virgin unknown
becomes the magnifying glass
that makes great her God
for all to see.

The women embrace:
forgotten hope surprised by life
embraces surpassing love.

Meeting they touch
the old and the new
the forgotten and the unknown
now revealed in mystery
as ancient desire and time’s fullness.

The simple majesty
of their common meeting
is remembered as the uncommon visitation
of God come among us.

Shall our own forgotten hope
protect us from surprise?


Shall our fear of being known
cause us to turn and hide
from this -- God’s embrace?

It is possible.

Shall we trade
the restlessness of God
for oblivion?

Also possible.

But these women,
Elizabeth and Mary,
desire and fullness,
call us to laugh
with our unpredictable God,
who comes to visit
such a warm and generous embrace
upon our quaking hearts.

Harry Hagan, OSB,  copyright Saint Meinrad Archabbey, 1993. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Lois Vandermause
12/22/2023 6:41 am

Beautiful and enriching, thought provoking! Thank you! Have a Blessed Christmas!

Rev. William J. Jacobs, Jr.
12/22/2023 7:40 am

Dear Very Special Sisters!

I read your lovely messages every week and sometimes comment on them. Today, I read them, but only want to use my space to tell you how grateful I am for all you have meant to me for all these years. Because of this wonderful ORDER, I believe I Graduated from Holy Cross Elementary in 1956 richly ready. I was as prepared as any student anywhere in the area, or any other student I've come across since then. You taught me how to be a very good person, and also a very sharp and flexible person in many ways. Whether it was as a Teacher, as a Principal at many Levels, or, as a Priest in 2003, or as a Pastor soon after, I was always prepared and unbelievably grateful for all who have contributed to my preparation over the years. As the Good Father DeVries would say, "My Dear Sisters - You Done Good!" My Dear Sisters, Past & Present, I too say, "You Done Good!" May God reward your goodness, wherever you may be... A very, very grateful - Father Bill Jacobs!

12/22/2023 9:01 am

There are numerous surprises within the Mystery of Life. So many "a-ha's," "oh my's," "oh no's," and "I never thought this could / would happen."

In Mary's case it was, "How can this be?" And how often do we find ourselves saying that to ourselves, as well? We are never prepared for what God has in store for us.

Mary was likely about 13 when Angel Gabriel visited her Biblical scholars tell us - an adolescent child. It was quite natural for young girls who had begun their life-giving cycle, to be regarded as ready to bear children. She was likely not more than 14 when JESUS was born. This reality is foreign to us, as we have been saturated with pictures and images of two very mature women meeting and greeting each other in joy.

So, too, have we been saturated with images of Mary as an adult woman, kneeling at the manger, alongside husband Joseph, who was likely a good ten years -- or more -- older than her.

What Mary went through as an extremely young parent and wife, we really don't know. Certainly, she had to learn along the way. To have the support and understanding of an older (much older) cousin, meant a great deal to her, and it was what she needed. In her elder cousin, Elizabeth, God provided for what Mary needed. That is the great joy of their relationship! And joy is of the Holy Spirit.

I think of Mary's mother, Ann - maybe not more than 30 or so when she became grandmother to JESUS. Where was she at this time? What was she doing? How did she show her love and support for her daughter, Mary, during these difficult and uncertain years?

Nothing was known of what was to come. It was just a matter of living one day at a time, to the best of one's ability, with whatever came along.

I think this is how it is for each of us. We just don't stop to realize how "caught up" we each are in the Mystery-of-Life.

It is an Awesome Awakening -- awe, as in "inspiring," and awe, as in a heart-throbbing, adrenaline-rushing gasp of frightful wonder -- too much to take in all at once, when we do "stop to ponder."

Peter Schumacher
12/22/2023 1:36 pm

Your reflection comes at such an appropriate time. I love this poem which I have never read before. Thank you and may the celebration of His birth bring more peace to our world.

12/22/2023 3:14 pm

Thank you for sharing the poem! So appropriate for this season. A beautiful reflection on Mary and Elizabeth!

Diann Wimmer
12/23/2023 6:42 pm

Thank you, Sr. Fran, for your reflection reminding me that it was women who heard the message wrapped in mystery and whose YES gave us the gift of Emanuel. Much Gratitude!

Debbie Tahany
12/28/2023 4:26 pm

Wonderful reflection. Thanks Sister Francis!

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