Let the Lord enter; he is the king of glory.
To celebrate the proclamation of Mary's encounter with the Angel, the Lectionary offers us the "royal" Psalm 24. Again we hear the sopranos singing, "He is the King of Glory" from Handel's Messiah.
The people of Judah, gathering in Jerusalem and their sacred temple, probably sang this hymn as they greeted their king, a descendant of King David. We can suppose this and other royal psalms were sounded during his coronation, on the king's birthday, his funeral and others state occasions. The king of Judah represented God to his subjects as certainly as the Pope represents God to many Christians. When they greet their king they sing royal psalms that celebrate God's kingdom.
Psalm 24 urges us to, "Let the Lord enter...." This is the week of final preparations for Christmas when the floors and walls are scrubbed, the silver is polished, the cookies and breads are baked, the presents are wrapped, the hair is trimmed or permed, and decorations are pulled out of storage to festoon the house both inside and out. If we're not expecting the president, the governor or the mayor we are expecting guests and they will be greeted like royalty.
Today we remember Mary's welcome of the King of Glory. Saint Augustine said, "She conceived the Lord in her mind before she conceived him in her body." Her welcome was complete as she loved the Lord with all her heart, soul, mind, body and strength. Like any conscientious mother of a newborn child, every facet of her life was reoriented by the East which had come to her.
Mary's welcome, first of the angel and then of the Lord, sets the pattern for our Christmas hospitality. It will flow out of our houses into the street to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless. In recent years, as hunger and homelessness have surged in the United States, some Christians volunteer to serve the needs of others on Christmas Day. It's become a tradition for many people, especially for those removed from their loved ones by school or work. An egalitarian society believes even the homeless should be treated like royalty.
Pope Benedict XVI reminded the Church in one of his books of the eastern orientation of our churches. He preferred that the priest and people should face the rising sun each morning. Orientation literally means turning toward the east; figuratively it means realigning our lives to a new reality. As Gabriel announces the Gospel to Mary, we reorient our lives to greet the Daystar, our Royal Lord and King, especially among the needy.