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, favoured 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 favour 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.’ – Luke 1:26-33
You’re sitting there, minding your own business, mending a shoe or darning a tear in a piece of clothing, when all of a sudden you find you are not alone. Suddenly there is a faintly glowing presence standing in front of you and you hear a voice greeting you as a favored person. Most of us would do the “Who, me?” routine but silently, probably very much like the young woman named Mary did when faced with that same situation.
The presence goes on to tell you that you shouldn’t be afraid. Really. In this day and time, it would be a wonder if a person didn’t pull out a gun and shoot first, asking questions later. After all, this was an unknown person in the house without consent and who represented a potential threat despite the pleasant words. If, perchance, you allowed them to deliver the message they were obviously sent to give, you might find yourself running the gamut of responses from “Are you kidding me?” to “What the ….” to “How am I supposed to do that?” In Mary’s case, the angel didn’t tell her how she was going to do it, only that she would do it and what the results would be.
We hear constantly about things we need to do to make the kingdom of God come to reality here and now but we are still stuck in the “Who, me?” “Are you kidding?” “How am I supposed to do that?” mode of thinking. We hear tales of individual people who have done great things, but we don’t really expect to do them ourselves. After all, we have a job to do, a standard of living to maintain, a place in the community to uphold, a family to raise and who has time to do more than that? We may go so far as to take two minutes to write a check and mail it to an organization we know of and that seems to have the same goals we’d like to see achieved, but that’s it.
There is a well-known painting of Jesus knocking on a door. He probably is truly doing just that, waiting for someone to answer so that he can say “Don’t be afraid; here’s what I need you to do.” It’s probably going to be more than clicking “Like” on Facebook or dashing off a check to a charity. I have to think, though, am I going to just leave Jesus standing there?
Advent is about opening doors and preparing for something special. I wonder – would I really want to tell Jesus I’m too busy? I don’t think so.