Throughout this Advent season, my goal is to take each of the four Lectionary readings for each week and write a meditation about each one. Largely my motivation for this is simply that I love the season of Advent, yet there’s also a little bit of hoping that by blogging through this season, I can use it as a means to grieve the recent passing of my Dad.
Week 4: A reading from the Gospel of Luke.
In the sixth month after Elizabeth had become pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee. He was sent to a virgin. The girl was engaged to a man named Joseph. He came from the family line of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel greeted her and said, “The Lord has given you special favor. He is with you.”
Mary was very upset because of his words. She wondered what kind of greeting this could be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary. God is very pleased with you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God. The Lord God will make him a king like his father David of long ago. He will rule forever over his people, who came from Jacob’s family. His kingdom will never end.”
“How can this happen?” Mary asked the angel. “I am a virgin.”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come to you. The power of the Most High God will cover you. So the holy one that is born will be called the Son of God. Your relative Elizabeth is old. And even she is going to have a child. People thought she could not have children. But she has been pregnant for six months now. Nothing is impossible with God.”
“I serve the Lord,” Mary answered. “May it happen to me just as you said it would.” Then the angel left her.–Luke 1:26-38 (NIRV)
As we conclude this final week of Advent, we find ourselves in the company of some unlikely members of the story.
David. A humble shepherd thrust into kingship. A man, much like many of us, with flaws but a heart turned toward God. A king with whom God renews a covenant–I will make you a great nation and your Kingdom will be eternal.
Mary. An unwed teenaged girl who finds herself pregant. A young girl who doesn’t cave to the pressures of her society, rather who declares “I serve the Lord!” A girl whose desire to serve God superseded acceptance of her family, friends, neighbors and culture.
Elizabeth. Like Sarah an old woman. Barren. Wanting nothing more than a child. Waiting for decades in hope that God would intervene on her behalf. Trusting God even when months and years pass without an answer.
Zachariah. A priest from the division of Abijah. A priest who knew the Abraham/Sarah/Isaac story, yet still laughed at the Messenger of God. Hoping for a child of his own, yet finding himself in disbelief when the promise is made. Then acting counter-culturally to name him John.
Abijah. A priestly order believed to have been named for one of the priests who return to Israel with Nehemiah. A family that understands what it means to wait in exile. Who understands what it means to worship even when God is silent.
Joseph. A person who is often–unfortunately–overlooked. The pivot person in the unfolding drama. A man who holds the power to end the story. Culturally, he would have had the ability–right–to quietly or rather noisily (with rocks) removed Mary–and child–from the story. Yet, he doesn’t. He is visited by an angel. Told the story. And then elects to act contrary to family, friends, neighbors and culture.
And, so here we are. Only hours to go until our waiting comes to an end. Just a brief time before Messiah comes. Immanuel. God with us.
In these last few hours of waiting, take a moment to ponder the characters in this story. Think about their various plights.
Each in the midst of their own personal dramas.
Each with their own flaws.
Each with their own counter-cultural response to their circumstance.
Each with the offer from God to enter into His story.
Each responding with a resounding, “I serve the Lord.”
And, now, as we prepare to light the fifth candle–the Christ-candle, let us consider our own place in this story. God is offering to each of us that same glorious offer. “Join into My story,” He says.
The choice is ours. Yet, be warned, to accept the offer is to act counter-culturally. It is to forsake all and follow. It is to leave the nets–and the fish–and follow a Star. It is to risk everything to invite just one other into the Story.
It is to live forever in the grip of Grace.
It is to walk the ancient path. It is to walk in the hope, peace, joy, and love of the Christ-Child.