Advent 4 – Gabriel Shuffles In

Luke 1:26-38The 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 21, 2014

“When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee.” (Luke 1:26)

She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. “The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, God is honoring you.”

“Mary,” in the sheltering darkness of the room, is alone but doesn’t feel lonely. She leans forward, alert.

Why does this moment feel different?

“Gabriel” slips unnoticed into the building, as hesitant as he is hopeful. With curious eyes, he scans the unfamiliar surroundings.

Is this the moment that will make a difference?

*       *       *

With apologies to It's A Wonderful Life, I think Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire is the best movie about angels...
With apologies to It’s A Wonderful Life, I think Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire* is the best movie about angels…

In several of the churches I served, I asked a young woman—maybe fourteen or fifteen years old—to read Luke’s familiar verses where Mary was informed about her impending pregnancy. I wanted a reminder that the first Christmas story hinged on the voiceless. In the so-called Bible times, all women were considered property; Mary’s identity would always be based on which him she married. She was merely some man’s future wife from a ho-hum village in a meaningless region that barely appeared as a dot on the sprawling map of the empire. Like a million other female nobodies, Mary lived in an era when the powerful trampled the weak, and the haughty rich acquired more treasure while the humiliated poor spiraled deeper into poverty. (Though it’s always been and still is this way.) Continue reading →

Advent 3 – The Usual Suspect

John 1:6-8, 19-28The Third Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 14, 2014

“This is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, ‘Who are you?’” (John 1:19)

90_20_15---Three-Advent-Candles_webThis is John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?”
John confessed (he didn’t deny but confessed), “I’m not the Christ.”

 

When the “Who are you?” Gospel question is proclaimed from pulpits on Advent’s third Sunday, a few pew dwellers might quietly complain, “How come grouchy John is still hanging around when we’re this close to Christmas?”

Isn’t Advent preparing us for the birth of Mary’s child? And yet here’s a bit from John the Baptist, thirty odd years after Jesus was born, prattling on about who he was not.

Are you the Christ? Nope.
Are you Elijah? Nope.
Are you the prophet? Nope.

 So negative!

Who was John? Well (to extend the negativity), he also wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

However, in today’s preparation for Christmas, the writer of John’s Gospel—no relation to John the Baptizer, aka John the Nope-ster—did offer a powerful Advent question . . . Continue reading →

Advent 2: Of The Roses Singing

Isaiah 40:1-11The Second Sunday of Advent – for Sunday, December 7, 2014

“A voice is crying out: Clear the Lord’s way in the desert! Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)

two+candlesA voice is crying out:
Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
 

Some say, fervent and sure in their beliefs, that Isaiah predicted a voice in the future: a John the baptizer that would cry aloud in the literal wilderness, a harbinger for Jesus’ ministry.

Some say, fervent and sure in their beliefs, that Isaiah was not predicting a some-day future of John and Jesus, but shouting an every-day truth in the metaphoric wilderness: a longing for God to transform a wounded world.

Either way, when modern hearts and minds read Isaiah’s ancient cries, there is a belief that from the wild, from beyond our safe homes and familiar streets, a change will come.

American poet, Mary Oliver penned,

Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.

I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours.

Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing.

If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much.

The second Sunday of Advent has arrived. Come walk with me into the woods, in the wilderness of yesterday’s Isaiah and today’s faith . . . but only if you are not one of the “smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable.” Continue reading →