Tag Archives: Advent

Advent 4 Sermon – The Messiness of Advent

Luke 1:39-45(46-55)
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

We have come to the end of Advent. Advent has been rough this year. We have endured talk of the end times and John the Baptist’s fiery preaching from the river banks.

Finally today, on this last Sunday of Advent things start to sound a little more Christmasy. Elizabeth, a woman thought to be too old to conceive and barren, is pregnant with John. Mary, a virgin still only engaged to be married, is pregnant with the Messiah. 

Today’s story sounds beautiful and picturesque. It is easy for us to imagine two delightfully pregnant women greeting one another lovingly; a scene that makes us smile.

But we forget to consider the struggles these two women are facing. Elizabeth is older than a pregnant woman should be. She and Zechariah will be raising a child in their old age, more like grandparents who have unexpectedly found themselves raising children again. While Mary is a young unmarried teen girl, and her fiancé is not the father of her child. Joseph could call off the marriage off at best… maybe forcing Mary to a life of begging on streets, with a child to care for. At worst, both she and her unborn child could be stoned for adultery. For both women in their day, child birth was dangerous and all too often women would not survive the birth experience without some luck. There is probably more relief than joy while the women greet one another, as Mary has gone with haste to see her cousin, to avoid the judgement of her hometown family and friends.

The story of Mary and Elizabeth is not one of those Christmas movies. Rather it is story full of fear and danger, one that stands in contrast to the Christmas image we generally try to present. Mary and Elizabeth challenge the notion that we usually hold about Christmas: shopping, baking, decorating and hosting. Mary and Elizabeth introduce things we don’t want to talk about this time of year. Fear, danger, shame and uncertainty. 

(Pause)

Marlena’s mind was wandering, thinking about Christmas things. Father Angelo’s voice snapped her back to attention, “These two reveal to us the ways in which the spirit is pregnant with possibilities among us.” Marlena was sitting in the pews at St. David’s, listening to the sermon on the last Sunday before Christmas. 

With her was her husband Jim and to two kids, Lizzie and David. The world had been slowly finding a new equilibrium. Even with masks in church, showing their vaccine passports, sitting one household to a pew… simply being at church with other people was such an improvement over the year before. 

As she began scanning the congregation scattered throughout the amphitheatre style seating, she caught the eyes of a good friend Miriam. Miriam and her family had become quite close to Marlena’s family this past year. Miriam was holding a bouncing one year old girl in her lap while keeping a precocious 4 year old busy in the pew below her. 

Marlena smiled, though she knew that smiling happened mostly with the eyes while wearing a mask. Miriam seemed to be smiling back, but she couldn’t help but look tired. Marlena was too. They all were. 

(Pause)

The real story of Mary discovering that she is pregnant unravels and upsets our vision of the Christmas story. We don’t want Christmas to be like real life, it supposed to something different, or least that is what we hope to create. The perfect and ideal vision of the perfect family preparing for a new baby. This was supposed to be the Christmas that we have been desperately hoping for after our zoom Christmas last year. Yet, once again our plans are disrupted and real life will not come close to matching our expectations, our hopes and dreams. We easily imagine calm and peaceful expectant mothers, Mary and Elizabeth, as if they this is the way the planned to have children all along. 

Just as we imagine our own family gatherings, Christmas parties, and holidays traditions that we used know. But that is our version of Christmas. NOT necessarily God’s. 

God is telling a different story at this time of year. God is telling a real story, about real people. About people who have big problems, and no easy way out. It is about poverty, about unmarried parents, about unwanted babies, about couples too old to raise a child, about judgment and the threat of death. It is about tiresome pandemics, exhausted poeple, a longing for our trials tribulations to be over. And it is about how God’s people respond to fear and danger. 

(Pause)

After church Marlena and Miriam met in the in parking lot. The kids were playing on the windrows that surrounded the cars. Jim and Miriams’ husband Jesse were chatting about work. Marlena looked to her friend. 

“Have you heard from your family yet?:” Marlena asked. 

“They aren’t going to make it.”

“What about Jesse’s family?

“They can’t either.” Said Miriam. 

The two friends looked at each other. 

“Well, then it is settled.” Marlena declared. “You all will come us to the lakehouse.”

“I feel like we are imposing on your family Christmas, we have done that enough already.” Responded Miriam. 

“Nonsense. You are family. Christmas without you would hardly be Christmas.”

(Pause)

Sometimes the real world can get in the way of Christmas. While we try to create perfect memories with seemingly perfect families, God is discarding the rules about pregnancy before marriage in order to send us a messiah. As we stress and worry and prepare for the perfect Christmas, God is sending divine messengers to an old woman and unwed teen mom living in poverty.

God does not wait for the everything to be perfect or to fall into place in order to begin the work of the incarnation. God does not come only when it is safe and there is nothing to fear. God’s activity of taking on our flesh and becoming like us starts now. God comes to us, whether we want God to or not. 

Mary’s and Elizabeth’s real life shoves aside our idyllic nativity scenes, visions of perfect Christmases. Mary and Elizabeth show us a real story about real people. A story about shame, and danger and betrayal. But also a story about mercy, and compassion and grace.

(pause)

Miriam looked at her friend Marlena. 

“Why do you keep taking care of us?” Miriam asked. “Aren’t you tired of us yet? Aren’t we more work than we are worth?”

Marlena laughed. “Ridiculous. We aren’t the ones stuck with you, you are the ones stuck with us. Ever since that roadside motel, when I got to hold newborn Christopher in my arms, when I see the way my kids and Jim come alive with you all. Your family is special to us. I see hope and joy and promise when we are together.”

Miriam sighed. “The spirit pregnant with possibilities, just like Father Angelo said, I guess.” 

The two friends smiled and laughed, and this time they could see each others’ faces. 

(pause)

For when Mary gets past the shame of pregnancy before marriage, when she get spast the fear of death for adultery, she with her husband to be Joseph, with her elderly cousins Elizabeth and Zechariah, they all become guardians of God’s promise, bearers of the Good News made flesh. 

And it is the same for us, when our fears and worries get out in the way, when we can’t see what God is up to. God comes anyways.  And God bears grace and mercy for the world in us. God makes us the messengers of the Good News of God’s love and compassion for all. God sends Messiah to frightened world.  

And because of what God is doing, with Mary, we can sing:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,

and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,

for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”

Sermon for Advent 3 – Messiah’s Winnowing Spoon

Luke 3:7-18
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God.

Advent is normally my favourite season of the church year. I don’t think that is uncommon for pastors. 

Christmas is of course the Super Bowl (or Grey Cup) of the church year. Christmas is like the most popular chain restaurant in town, everyone goes there and it is a big party. But Advent is more like that hole-in-the-wall family run restaurant with the most delicious food you can find, that most people seem to pass by without much notice.

The rich flavour of Advent is found in the images that we hear – the way of Lord, valleys filled up, mountains made low, crooked paths made straight that we heard about last week. This week it is the spicy brood of vipers, the fiery winnowing fork burning the chaff. Next week it will be angels and virgins, and promises and hints of Messiah. Advent’s beauty is in the blending of hints and promises of Messiah together with real life. With the messiness of people looking for something better. 

Real people like the crowds in the desert going to John the Baptist, looking and hoping for something different than what they know. Real people like the hypocritical religious and political leaders that we know as well as 1st century Israel did. Real people like a girl dealing with an unplanned pregnancy and the reality of impossible life choices. 

Advent speaks to the real circumstances that people – everyday, average people – deal with all the time.

And Advent weaves the coming of Messiah through it all. Christmas tells us of the extraordinary. Advent brings God close to the ordinary.

Normally, we prefer to focus on the light of the coming Messiah shines brightly through the cracks of our Advent images. We love to see Messiah bursting into our world.

Given all that we have experienced in these long couple of years, this Advent feel more Advent-y than usual. All the messy and broken stories of God’s people that we hear in Advent follow along side our story these days more than feels comfortable.

Stories and images of burning chaff speak less to farm hands separating wheat on the threshing room floor and more to the struggles of our communities trying to get a handle on public health measures, about believing science over misinformation, about putting the well being of all ahead of our own personal perceptions of inconvenience. 

Stories about King Herod’s willingness to kill infant boys to protect his own power and the violent world of occupied Israel of Jesus’ day reminds us all too much violence that has become a constant refrain in our world. Murder trials, hate crimes, and school shootings encouraged by delinquent parents.  

Stories about the innkeepers who turned away the holy family remind us too much of people fleeing floods and atmospheric rivers, essential supplies stuck in shipping containers in ports and warehouses, warnings that something must be done now to protect our planet’s future. 

Stories like the possible stoning that Mary could have endured had Joseph chosen to dismiss her sound too much like violence against women simply because they are women reminds us of the anniversary of Ecole Polytechnic and the violence against women still taking place today. 

Advent stories are coming at us in the news and daily life as often as they are coming from the bible.

Advent is our reality. Waiting for Messiah is what we are doing this year.

As John the Baptist declares, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” We are living out Advent in real time.

We are the ones standing on the riverbanks hoping that this wild hermit preacher named John can give us some hope. And all he seems to be talking about is wrath. Axes waiting to cut down trees. Warnings to start living better lives. Threats of burning with the chaff unless we get it together. 

At least that is what John seems to be talking about.

John describes the Messiah standing on a threshing room floor, the place where grain is brought in once it is harvested from the land. And the Messiah has his mighty winnowing fork in hand. A winnowing fork is used to separate a wheat stock from the grain itself. As the fork lifts the grain from the pile, the heavy grain falls to the floor, and the lighter useless chaff is blown into the fire to be burned away.

John’s message today sounds harsh but fitting for our world.

As Advent-y as things seem this year, as full of strife and struggle our world seems to be… maybe throwing us all into the chaff isn’t what John is getting at.

Because a pitchfork is not what Messiah is holding, for a fork would be a useless tool to clear a threshing room floor. And nor is the word fork used in the original greek of this text. No, the tool that the messiah is holding is more of a winnowing spoon… or more precisely a shovel. The winnowing shovel is not a tool of separating but a tool for gathering. 

Maybe just maybe, Messiah is gathering us up. Gathering us all up. Gathering up our broken and suffering and dying world so that we can finally begin to see the light. 

Maybe that is how God is reminding us that the Good News isn’t just reserved for Christmas.

As bad as the world seems to be, Messiah is already a work around us. Messiah has his winnowing shovel and is gathering. Messiah’s is bringing light to our Advent world.

Messiah is gathering us up as children and seniors roll up their sleeves to be vaccinated, adding more layers of protection to this pandemic weary world. As healthcare workers, education staff, businesses and community leaders, neighbours and families keep the inconvenient but essential public health measures day after day, week after week. 

Messiah is pulling us together in the many hands working tirelessly to rebuild and repair water logged homes, washed out roads and bridges, caring for now homeless flooding victims.  

Messiah is scooping us up off the floor as we recommit again to the work of social justice and caring for community, welcoming the stranger, providing for those in need. Just as our SLAW youth did in dropping a tremendous haul of Christmas supplies to the Urban this week. 

And Messiah is building us up as National church committed to the work of ending domestic violence against women with the Thursday in Black campaign. 

And Messiah is scooping us up off the threshing room floor here at Sherwood Park as we find new ways to gather for worship, to meet as small groups, to safely make music together, to reconnect with families and households, to find new ways of being the same body of christ that we have long been. 

Messiah is gathering us up, all the mess and all the struggle of our real life Advent so that we can see that God is really coming to us in incarnation, God in flesh among us.

So sure, John the Baptist may sound a little harsh today. Advent might feel extra Advent-y this year. But the promised Messiah is gathering us up today, scooping us off the threshing room floor with his winnowing spoon, making us ready for the in-breaking of light and hope among us. 

Stir up your power Lord Christ and come.

Thoughts for Advent 3 – Perspective Shift

When my grandfather’s family immigrated from Norway, my understanding is that they landed first in Minnesota, where a lot of Scandinavian immigrants settled. But before long, many of these immigrants were longing for home, particularly for the Fjords of Norway. So a group of them decided to pick up and move to a place that reminded them of home the most. From Minnesota they moved to the coast of BC, to a place called Bella Coola. A tiny community nestled in the Fjords of BC. A community on the water but also among the mountains. A place where  sometime in late fall the sun would fall behind the mountains, not to be seen again until the end of winter. 

I always thought this was a strange decision and I wondered why my ancestors made it. 

Then I moved to the Red River Valley myself. Most Manitobans probably don’t think about this much, but there are virtually no hills here, no variation to the topography. If you know where to look you can find a hill, but they are not common. And no, driving over the Disraeli bridge does not count as a hill. 

The uncommon hills here are nothing compared to the hills and valleys found around Edmonton where I grew up, or the rolling prairie to the east, or mountains to the west. 

There are times when I long for a hill or two. And certainly there is strong sense of belonging whenever I am in the mountains – I think it is my Nordic blood. 

A few years ago, on one of our trips to see family out west, we were coming into the mountains just outside of Calgary when our daughter Maeve started complaining that she couldn’t see. We thought she meant she couldn’t see because of a pillow or blanket blocking her window, but we quickly sorted out that it was in fact the mountains themselves that were blocking her view of the sky (I think we are raising a real Manitoban…). 

Maeve is not the first prairie person to get panicky driving a mountain highway. I also know a few folks from BC who find the open skies of the prairies unnerving. 

As we navigate our way through the mountains, valleys, and flat places of Advent, I think there is something to the way God is working in and through our different perspectives. 

Flattened mountains and filled in valleys and straight paths don’t particularly excite me, but they might be a relief for some. 

The short days and long nights of winter might be something to be endured for some, but a sun that falls behind the mountains might feel like home for others. 

Advent is all about shifting our perspective. The stories we tell demand that we re-think the way we see the world. 

The End becomes the Beginning. 

John the Baptist’s bombastic preaching to wilderness crowds points us to a baby born in quiet and out-of-the-way manger. 

A young teenager, getting pregnant out of wedlock becomes the one in whom God is birthed into the world. 

The Messiah joins in with the life of creation in order to overcome death on the cross, and show us to new life. 

And finally, when we are tired, achy, slowing down, feeling as though we might be dying… when our lives, when the church, when the world feels as though things are falling apart… it might actually be something else. 

We just might be pregnant with new possibilities, soon to be entering into our world, changing our perspective on just what God is doing with us. 

The Days are Surely Coming, say the Lord – a Sermon for Advent 1

Luke 21:25-36
Jesus said, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in a cloud’ with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

The days are surely coming, says the Lord. 

The first words of the season of Advent begin with Jeremiah, speaking words from the mouth of God to the people of Israel facing destruction by Babylon. An oracle that begins us immediately with the promise of God to a people who feels as though they are surrounded by oppression, suffering and darkness. 

We have flipped the calendar today, and are about to begin a new season of the church year. Advent might be the only time the church is ahead of the rest of the world… and even then, we don’t really do this time of year the way most do. We begin by talking about the end, we begin by pausing and stopping and waiting for what comes next. In Advent, as in the Church, beginnings and endings often go hand-in-hand. 

Advent is a peculiar season. The church decorates with blue or purples, we generally hold off on singing Christmas Carols (although it is sometimes hard to resist), we patiently and almost quietly count down the days until Advent ends on Dec 24th… all while wondering about what all these stories of John the Baptist and a pregnant virgin actually mean for us. 

But on the first Sunday of Advent, we don’t quite get into those stories just yet. We begin instead with the end. On this first Sunday of the church year we begin with visions and promises of the end, the great reconciling of all creation that God promises to God’s people. 

For the people of Jeremiahs’ day, their world was surrounded by war and destruction, the Babylonians were threatening to conquer much of the Middle East. And Jeremiah prophesied the coming destruction, the people of Israel awaiting what was to come next for them as warring nations around them sought control of the region. 

And for the people of Thessaloniki, St. Paul writes to them hoping they are well in the midst of trials and tribulations because the Romans around this small fledgling Christian community are blaming them for upsetting the social order. 

Two communities who are wondering what comes next for them, what will happen to them in the midst of tension, chaos and uncertainty in the world.

And then we hear from Jesus as he preaches to his disciples about the end. Visions and signs of the coming Son of Man. Words from Jesus spoken to his disciples in the middle of Jerusalem during a time of great tension and uncertainty – during the days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday. 

The tension and the uncertainty sounds oh so familiar to us doesn’t it?

Whether it is this ongoing and lingering pandemic, and it is restrictions and surprises, its struggles and effects of isolating us from each other. Or fears about the economy and inflation, the cost of groceries, gas and rent or housing. 

Whether it is the regular reminders that our society has yet to reconcile with our colonial and racist history, that we still struggle to care for the least among us, the poor, those struggling with addition and homelessness, those living on the margins. 

Whether it is this present reality that church is dealing with decline, with a future that we are not sure of, and now has to figure out where we stand in the midst of and following a global pandemic that sent us all home for longer than we every imagined we wouldn’t be gathering in-person together. 

We know what it means to live under a cloud of uncertainty and to wonder what comes next for us… even if we would rather not think about it. Even as we foolishly and misguidedly try to get back to normal with Black Friday shopping lists, baking and decorating and all the other things that come with the holiday season… here we are as the church, starting a new church year and forcing ourselves to pause and sit with this hard question of what comes next for us. 

And here is the thing about Advent, here is the thing about Jesus and all his talk of signs and visions of the end… there is no answer for what comes for us. That is not the answer we get to today, nor really any day in Advent. 

Instead, Advent arrives with an answer to a different question. And it answers it with the very first words of the season. 

The days are surely coming, says the Lord. 

Advent’s answer for us is not to tell us what comes next, but who. 

Messiah. 

Messiah is coming. 

The righteous branch of Jesse to save all of Judah. 

The one sent by our God and Father, the Lord Jesus

The Son of Man coming in a could. 

The Messiah. 

And no, the promise of the Messiah’s coming did not stop the Babylonians coming to destroy the Jerusalem and exiling its most important citizens. 

And no, the promise of Messiah’s coming did not stop the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. 

And no, the promise of Messiah did not prevent the ugly ending of Holy Week with a public execution on a cross…

But God’s promise of the Messiah was that none of these thing would not be end. Not the end of people of Israel and nor the people of Thessaloniki. 

And the cross… well the cross was no ending at all, but rather the beginning. The beginning of God’s new reality for creation, the beginning of God’s new promise of Resurrection and New Life come to fruition for us all. 

And then after the cross, that Son of Man coming in the clouds also walked out of the tomb. But that story is not for Advent to tell. 

Instead, Advent points us again to the promise of Messiah coming also for us. This Messiah whose coming means that all the things of our world which bring tension and uncertainty, conflict and suffering, sin and death… they will not be the end of us. Rather the Messiah’s coming means that we are not alone, not forgotten, not abandoned to the present nor to the future. Messiah’s promised coming means that our world is already transformed now, because a world with the Messiah on the way is a world designed for salvation, rather than a world destined for destruction. And that changes everything. 

And as the Messiah is coming, the Messiah also walks along side us. No matter the outcomes of all those things that cause us tension and uncertainty, no matter the outcomes of things that feel too big to control and too much to bare. No matter the uncertainty of pandemic and inflation, no matter the struggles of families, neighbours and community… Advent points us to the Messiah who shows us that God’s new world is right around the corner, coming into view, breaking through into our world right before our eyes. 

Breaking through to us in the things that have always been before us, that have always been the signs of God’s love and mercy for us here in this place. 

And so even as the world continues to be a place full of tension and uncertainty, Messiah is coming to us bringing God’s new world. 

Coming to us in word, water, bread and wine. 

Coming to us in the gathering of this community, a sign of the Body of Christ. 

Coming to us with the promises of God, made and fulfilled. 

Messiah is coming and Messiah is here. This is the story of Advent, the story that begins today, even the in the midst of all of uncertainty and endings about what comes next. 

The days are surely coming, says the Lord. 

Mary’s story is a story for 2020

Luke 1:26-38
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.” (Read the whole passage)

Stir up your power Lord Christ and come. 

Four Candles are finally lit today, and it isn’t long until that central Christ Candle is lit. Advent, as it always, starts by talking about the end, and then giving us two weeks to hear John the Baptists’s preaching about the coming of Messiah. But isn’t until Advent 4 that we get a story the feels like it belongs to the season… or least it isn’t until this Sunday that we hear a story seems to move forward our desire to roll the calendar over to Christmas. 

But before we can bust out the carols and presents, Advent needs to give us our last reminder of what it means to wait for Messiah, a qualifier for our celebration of Christmas. 

Just in case we think the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary is a Christmas story, we are reminded today that it is an Advent story. And quite the Advent story it is. We hear this story of Gabriel and Mary and it is easy to imagine a young grade schooler wrapped in a bath robe and shawl, woodenly reading lines as she receives the news that she is pregnant. The pageant version of this story is the one we easily imagine, but certainly unlike the moment when most women find out they are pregnant. 

It is easy to imagine the young virgin, meek and mild, humbly and graciously receiving the angel’s news. It is natural to picture the made for TV Christmas movie version of the story, the version where there is no doubt that whatever tension presents itself in the story everything will turn out in the end. The idyllic nativity sets confirm this. The nostalgia laced Christmas greeting cards confirm this. 

And yet, the actual story was anything but idyllic. 

The story of Gabriel’s annunciation is a story in the real and messy world. A story that is less made for TV movie or Christmas pageant, and more real life stuff that usually happens in the privacy of our personal lives. 

When Gabriel told the young Mary that she would conceive and bear a son, it was likely not welcome news. Mary’s life plan was certainly different than this development. 

In Mary’s world, women had few options. Marriage and motherhood was the ideal, a woman’s worth was in the ability of her body to give sons to her husband. Sons to carry on their father’s lineage who would also be the retirement plan for most women, someone to care for them once their husband died. 

Yet, if a woman couldn’t provide children, or couldn’t reliably provide children that belonged to her husband because she wasn’t virgin before marriage… well that likely meant divorce and being tossed onto the streets. Pregnancy outside of marriage meant becoming a single mother living on the streets in the best case, execution by stoning at worst. 

And so as Gabriel announces this news to Mary, she is right to be much perplexed. This just about the worst thing that could happen to a young unmarried woman. Hardly the stuff we think about during the Christmas pageant. This is messy and real life. This is the kind of stuff that many of us had to deal with – life altering changes of course, 

This is kind of stuff that we know all too well in life. Things that happen to us beyond our control that change the entire course of our lives. Things like job loss, death of a loved one, separation, diagnosis of an illness or unplanned pregnancy…. 

Things like a global pandemic that changes how we live our lives to core. From how we work, shop, maintain relationships, worship and even how we celebrate Christmas. 

Things that take all we have in ourselves just to keep it together. 

Mary’s story is a real life story, a story about the messiness of life. It is a story for 2020 as much as it is a 2000 year old story.  

But Mary’s is also the story of God finding humanity in the mess, finding humanity in the struggle, finding humanity in the realness. 

Long before the angel interrupts Mary’s life plan with news of her pregnancy, Mary lived in a world where she was less of a human and more of a piece of property or livestock, where her marriage was likely arranged by her family as they were making a business deal. And of course there was the messiness of her own people and culture that was compounded by the fact that they all lived under Roman occupation. 

Yet, when the Angel first greets Mary, the Angel says, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.”

Right from the very beginning, God does something new and unexpected with Mary. God determines her worth and value before anything else. Mary is favoured by God. Not because she is a fertile body waiting to be impregnated. Not because she will bear the Messiah. But simply because she is herself. 

Greetings favoured one!

And then God gives Mary a purpose, she will be the one who will bear Messiah to the world. In a twist of irony, by choosing Mary to do the one thing that her world values her for, bear children, God takes away her cultural and social value. And instead, God imbues her with divine value. She is favoured because God has said so, and God then gives her a purpose in bearing the Messiah. God establishes her value and then gives her a purpose, opposite of the way her world works – where value is only given if one produces something considered worthy. 

Right from the beginning of the story, God is at work doing something new, transforming Mary’s life in unexpected ways. 

God is at work in Mary’s real story, her messy, struggled filled story. 

And remarkable as Mary’s real life story is, it is not special. 

Because Mary’s story is a universal story, it is our story. 

God has a way of finding us in the midst of our messy, struggled filled and very real lives too. Even as we are stuck at home, even when it feels like no one know where we are or how alone we feel. 

God finds us in the middle of real life, and breaks through all the things around us that would tell us our value, that our purpose, that life is only worth living based on what we can do in the world… 

God breaks through all the things that would tell Mary she is barely more than a thing that can be owned and that which is less than human. 

God breaks through all the things that would tell us that we are missing this year, all ways our lives have been made small and make us feel less than our true selves. 

God breaks through to us, and declares that we too are favoured. 

God breaks through and says that the Lord is with you. 

As we gather virtually, even as we pray and worship at home, God gathers us together, God reminds of words spoken to us at the beginning of our life in Christ, that still hold true today. God reminds us of the water poured on our heads, the sign of the cross that marked and sealed us to the Body of Christ. 

God reminds us that through all the messiness of life, through all the unexpected twists and turns, that we have been claimed in the waters and welcomed by Angels, divine messengers – by siblings in Christ who said to us: 

We welcome you into the body of Christ and into the mission we share:
join us in giving thanks and praise to God
and bearing God’s creative and redeeming word to all the world.

Join us in bearing God’s creative and redeeming word to all the world, just as Mary, Mary the God bearer did. 

Just as the Angel, the divine Messenger, tells Mary that she will bear a son, the son of God – that she will bear the Christ, the Christ who is the Word… 

God tells us the same. 

God declares that we are favoured, that we are marked with the cross. 

And that God us will use to bear the word, Christ who is the word, to the whole world. 

So you see, Mary’s story is not truly a pageant story or made for TV Christmas story. 

It is a real story. 

It is our story. 

Today, as Advent takes us through the final parts of the story, the ones that lead us to Christmas, we are reminded that this is a real story. A messy story. A story more like our lives this year than we really know. 

And it is real because it is the story of God’s breaking into our lives. Breaking into our mess in order to bring Messiah, the Word, the Son. 

In order for Christ to come and take flesh among us. 

So, stir up your power Lord Christ and come.