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 →

Lingers in the Shadows

Luke 1:26-38 – 4th Sunday of Advent – for December 18, 2011

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God…” (Luke 1:26)

Visiting the old man had been easier.

Maybe it was because The Messenger chose a sanctuary for the encounter. The whole world is holy, but still, with the silence and candles, the sacred space enhanced the announcement he prepared for Zechariah.

Advent’s Fourth Word: ANGEL

There’s this, too: maybe Zechariah—honestly humble and intentionally kind by all accounts—felt he deserved a break. Thought God should do a deed or two for him. Yes, The Messenger mused, the old man was easy. Not once in the sanctuary conversation did he have to consult his notes or raise his voice or make an unnecessary promise. And it didn’t surprise The Messenger when Elizabeth’s elderly husband couldn’t mutter a word afterwards. Awe can do that. The Messenger had seen it before with humans—the stupor, the incoherent explanations, the babbling about a dream.

Wings of desire...

And yet now this: this girl, this woman. Mary is both and neither. He studies her from the shadows; he is alert, prepared and he never hesitated when told he would be her witness. It’s his job, after all. He’s done it before, and hopes he’ll continue the work for a long time. The Messenger relishes playing the muse, the voice, the dream, the whisper, the unexpected idea, the rush of wind, the stillness of night, the surge of adrenalin, the calm of conviction, the best hope and last chance.

He didn’t ask why her or why now. Well above his pay grade, thank you very much.

Still he lingers in the shadows, leaning against the wall, almost as if hiding. As if he’s more afraid and less confident. This surprises him. Continue reading →