Tuesday Scripture - Luke 1:29 - Mary was greatly troubled at his words
Tuesday Quote - Dietrich Bonhoeffer - “I discovered later, and I'm still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes and failures. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously, not our own sufferings, but those of God in the world. That, I think, is faith.”
The angels that sit atop our Christmas trees adorn our mantles or hand as decorations in our homes or on our jewelry are warm and comforting creatures. The angels of the Bible were often troubling. mary is troubled. Luke says that when the angels appear to the shepherds 'they are sore afraid.' Isaiah and Ezekiel too are awestruck and overwhelmed when angels appear to them. We tend to soften the rough edges of angels and have adorable children play them in the Christmas pageant. But in the Bible they are shocking and sobering creatures and humans rarely experience calm and peace. When angels come, the world shifts under our feet and leave unbalanced and stumbling.
It is safe to assume that the appearance of the angel to Mary and the message the angel brought to her was not convenient news. Good perhaps, but hardly convenient. The message, that she would nurture the Son of the Most High and bring into life on earth was hardly convenient news. It would put her honor in doubt, her marriage in deep trouble and undermine all her plans for the future. Her life would no longer be her own to pursue. Now she is enlisted in the service of God's plan of redemption. And that enlistment is risky and it requires sacrifice. No wonder Mary is greatly troubled. God's presence in her life in this unexpected way is earth-shattering. Her life will never be the same, nor will it be easy.
It seems we return to this theme year after year at Advent. Sometimes I wonder if I should not attempt to put some fresh new spin on it. Try another interpretation of this story on for size. Or perhaps it is an important reminder. We live in a world that is in many ways increasingly customized for our wants and needs. Information is collected online so that adds can be targeted to our desires. Even the news we consume, many today by Facebook and Twitter, is customized according to what we like to hear. Amazon suggests books based on the books we have purchased before. If we do not like the service we are getting at one store, one cell-phone company, one cable provider, well, we can choose another option. And subtly we are at the center of our own little universe. The angel appears and breaks that universe apart and draws us from our own safe and comfortable place into the unsettling world of God's coming kingdom. It is demanding, it is challenging, it is unsettling. And ultimately, it is the only hope we have. So let us pray not only for a merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season but also for a troubling advent and an unsettling season in which the message of the angel draws us, like Mary, into the thrilling and frightening adventure of playing a part of God's plan of renewal and redemption.
Tuesday Explore - Luke 18:18-23; Romans 12:1-2,9-21
Tuesday Prayer - When life is complex and stressful we thank you God our shepherd that you lead us to still waters and green pastures so that we can be restored. But we confess that too often this is all we accept of your presence, and the unsettling or disturbing challenge to grow in holiness is ignored. With trembling hearts, we ask that you continue to unsettle us so that we do not grow complacent or apathetic. Encourage us with the promise that your challenge brings with it the promise of life in all its fullness.