We’ve heard the angel Gabriel speak already — Gabriel told the news of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah and Elizabeth. Now, six months later, we meet Mary as Gabriel announces that she will give birth to Jesus, the “Son of the Most High”:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
I will confess to something that is well, not seasonal — I am just not feeling the wonder of the story this year. Perhaps it is because of everything that has happened in these past few months, but maybe not in a bad way. I’m not having a crisis of faith, just a crisis of story.
Or maybe it is because I just returned from an amazing evening with friends and colleagues at the annual IJM fundraising dinner and all I can think about are the pictures of those widows and orphans, and the statistics about gender violence and the affect it has on poverty status. There is no angel Gabriel to bring glad tidings to the beautiful young faces I saw tonight; there is no angel Gabriel to bring solace to the old women and widows. But there were 1300 unnamed angels in that ballroom tonight at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.
I know that I set for myself a goal of engaging the Scripture each day, but today’s birth announcement from Luke pales in comparison to the things I have heard and seen on this cold December evening. Except — without this announcement, without the coming that was foretold, would our hearts and hands be open enough to answer the call of Isaiah 1:17 — “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Tonight’s event and the work of IJM are yet another proof to me that, at least for me, Advent can no longer be a time of waiting. Advent and the story of Advent is more than ever a call to live the life of discipleship represented by the child whose story we tell again and again, and to live out that call in action as well as in faith.
You can change the world one person at a time…I saw proof again tonight and we hear the story again and again each December, as one child comes into the world to change it for us all. May I find the courage to join in that change.