Thursday, December 17, 2015

Advent Day 19, 2015 - ...A man of God came to me...

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.’ Then the woman came and told her husband, ‘A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name; but he said to me, “You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.”
 The woman bore a son, and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the Lord blessed him. The spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. - Judges 13:2-7, 24-25

Advent is a story of waiting. Every year we think of the  annunciation to Mary, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and ultimately the birth of the Christ Child. It's a miraculous birth, but not the first or even the second in the Bible.
A number of women had what amounted to miraculous births. One of the most famous was Sarah, an elderly woman who had been barren all her life and who was tremendously amused when she overheard her husband Abraham being told that she would bear a son. The man of God who gave that news had the last laugh, although Sarah named her son Isaac, which means laughter. Hannah was barren and was caught praying so intently than a priest thought she was drunk. Her prayers were granted, and she bore a son named Samuel who was one of the great prophets. We remember Elizabeth, who also was elderly and barren, but whose son was born  and named John. And then of course there was Mary, unlike the others, a young and potentially fertile woman who met a man from God and accepted what must have been a puzzling and perhaps frightening assignment.

In today's reading, we hear of Manoah, mother of Sampson, who was given a son and named him Sampson. Manoah raised her son to be a Nazirite, one who was dedicated to God from birth. Nazirites followed a rather strict lifestyle with no wine or alcohol, no unclean foods, and no haircuts. We know where the haircut proscription caused Sampson great trouble, but still, Manoah brought up her son as the man of God told her to do.

We have our own miraculous births these days, few of which seem to involve seeing a man of God. Our miracles are things like in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, or even at-birth adoptions. Still, to parents unable to conceive in the usual way, these truly are miracles. Many would probably say they were gifts straight from God.

One name that priests and preachers used to have used frequently about them was "a man of the cloth" "or" a man of God." It denoted a setting apart of the man for service to God and his fellow human beings. We now have women who are priests and preachers but we have the same feeling of their being sett apart. For most in the Bible, "a man of God" usually referred to one who looked like an angel.

We normally think of angels as humans figures with wings. Every Christmas pageant features a number of children wearing tinsel halos and various forms of wings. Is that really what angels like? Or can they look just like ordinary people dressed in anything from blue jeans to a Brooks Brothers suit, or perhaps from sweatpants to a designer ball gown? I think the answer is that an angel can look like anybody, but they can only truly be identified as angels by their words and actions.

Biblical angels brought good news to desperate women. Modern angels bring good news to the world. They often work quietly in the background but leave things better than before they got there. These angels may be very religious people or even people of almost no religion at all. God uses all kinds of people as angels in the world reaps the benefit.

Sometimes we can recognize these angels who appear in our lives and who offer us peace, comfort, and wisdom. I know myself I have met a goodly number of them. I knew who they were by what they said and did. They were and are truly blessings.

Maybe one thing I need to do this Advent is to look around and see where a holy one comes into my life. Heaven knows, I don't need an announcement of an impending birth at my age, but I could use comfort, peace, and wisdom. Leaving a white feather behind is not necessary to let me know an angel has been there

Look around. You may be surprised at what, or who, you find.

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