Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent 2010

And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.
But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. "You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
Zacharias said to the angel, "How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years." Luke 1:11-18
 
  Advent is the season to say “Yes”. Mary said yes. She wasn’t the first one in the Advent story to encounter an angel though. Before Mary said “yes”, her cousin’s husband said, “are you kidding me?“. Zacharias was performing his priestly duties in the temple when the angel appeared to him. If an angel were going to turn up anywhere and speak to anyone, my first guess would be there. But Zacharias wasn’t buying it and his initial response was doubt. After twenty four years of motherhood, I know how that angel must of felt - “Hey, I’m here and I’ve spoken with your Father. I told you how things are going to be, and still you doubt. The only thing you kids understand is discipline!” The angel struck Zacharias mute until his son John was born, and in the gospel his story blends to the background while the story of the birth of the Messiah unfolds.

  There are many lessons to be learned in comparing the responses of Mary and Zacharias to the proclamations of their respective angelic messengers; most notably that the response of the uneducated young woman reflected true faith in God and the response of the well educated priest was tainted with doubt. No matter how earnestly I strive to be like Mary -- to respond to the evidence of God’s promises with unwavering faith -- I often find myself standing in Zacharias’ shoes. In fact, as the experiences of loss and grief accumulate and I become more intimately acquainted with good-byes, I find I often feel more like Zacharias than like Mary. I have full access to the temple; evidence of God’s promised Messiah is all around me, but do I live as though I believe it? Do I walk into God’s house each week with the expectation of angelic encounters? Or is that sort of hope too costly?

  Mary didn’t wake up each day expecting life changing encounters with angels, but when she had one, she was prepared. When I choose to open my eyes I realize I too am surrounded by angels, those who God chooses as vehicles to share His love with me. I am blest beyond measure to have known so many people whose kindness has literally been an answer to my prayers, As for those I have lost, having so many people and experiences to miss at times colors my life with grief, it also assures me I have more to look forward to.

  Each day I have the opportunity to kneel in God’s house and hear the voice of an angel reassure me, “Do not be afraid, Anne, your petition has been heard.”. Although our petitions are unique and God’s responses vary according to His infinitive mercy, we each have that assurance, our petitions have been heard. God is listening. He has sent His Son. God is here. The season of Advent heralds the arrival of the source of our hope - Emmanuel, God with Us.

  The season of Advent is beginning. Are we embracing the messages of the angels? I am grateful for each of you, the angels God sends to encourage me; the reassurance my prayers have been heard. May God bless each of you with blessed assurance of His love this Advent Season.