Sunday, December 24, 2017

Advent 4B

Good Morning!
I don't know about y'all
but did you notice the timing of today?
This morning, Gabriel announces to Mary that she will have the baby Jesus...
and then
when y'all come back tonight,
only a few hours later
There's baby Jesus!
I have been told that time goes fast when you're getting ready for a baby,
but that seems a little too fast!

Mary and Gabriel
These two figures are quite polar opposites.

Here we have Mary,
a lowly, poor, dirty fourteen ish year old girl
whose bridal price was maybe a donkey or a few sheep
a nobody in a nobody town

and then we have Gabriel
one of God's archangels
in charge of legions of angels
keeper of the trumpet which will blow to signify the end of times
a mass of energy, power, and light

thrown together by God's plan to save the world.
It almost sounds like the start of a Hollywood movie.

Keeping in line with their outrageous disparity
Gabriel greets Mary,
an unexpected guest in her home,
with an unexpected greeting.
First century greeting etiquette was well determined.
There were very specific things one said to another
when you met someone or saw someone for the first time in a day,
especially when you didn't know them
or they were guests
or there were socio-economic differences between the two.
In no way, shape, or form,
should Gabriel have been greeting Mary so favorably or graciously
normally, in a situation like this,
the greeting would have been much simpler on Gabriel's part
and Mary would have to commence in some
gracious greeting and bowing and inviting in

Instead,
Gabriel greets Mary as the favored one
in a way in which she would not have been accustomed
Which would have perplexed 
and definitely scared her a little bit. 
When you meet someone for the first time 
and they start saying things you don't know how to respond to...

It never really hit me the importance of that line in the passage
She would have automatically known this was not a normal encounter for her. 
I always assumed it was simply because
Gabriel looked odd 
which is why she was perplexed and afraid, 
but as I looked at this passage, 
I realized, 
she really just doesn't know what to say to this new person who greeted her. 
Gabriel didn't use any of the appropriate formulas 
Gabriel didn't say Shalom aleichem
which would have been proper,
and Mary doesn't respond... 
which in other circumstances would be considered a very rude thing. 
Luckily, Gabriel doesn't seem to think Mary's lack of response is rude, 
and Gabriel continues on with the announcement.

Gabriel says that Mary has found favor with God,
that Mary will conceive and bear a son
and that she will name him Jesus.
In Aramaic, the language Mary spoke, 
this would be “Yeshua,” 
in English, Joshua. 
This was a common name, 
as today like Bill or Jim.
Which is also funny,
here she is 
being told she is going to give birth to the Son of God
and she is told to name
The SON of GOD
Billy.

Wouldn't you think the Son of God
would have had a little bit of a cooler
more impressive name?

And perhaps its just me,
But I have always found it odd that Mary
doesn't ask
Why?
She asks how can this be?
Which is
to be fair
a pretty good question too.
How can this be?
Well, Gabriel, answers,
the spirit of the Lord will overshadow you
and you will become pregnant.
The Holy Spirit at work in the world.
While this may have been the only time the Holy Spirit physically impregnated anyone
the Holy Spirit has been doing this work of planting seeds
in people for a long time.
I'm still wondering about that why question though.
It goes in many many different directions

Why is God going to have a son?
Granted Mary would have had a tradition about that,
the Messiah was going to be God's son.

But I guess the real question I would have been asking is
why me?
But she doesn't ask that.
Not once.

Certainly I have asked that question plenty of times in my life.
Why am I called to become a priest and others are not?
Why do I have to take care of this?
Why do I have to be the one to take responsibility for... whatever it is.

Have you ever asked yourself that question?

She doesn't seem overly concerned about what God has chosen her.
Gabriel told her that she had found favor with God.
And perhaps she had been hoping that she would find favor with God.
Perhaps not in the way of having to bear a child,
but wanting to be right in relationship with God.
But I can totally understand her confusion,
not just with Gabriel and his greeting,
not just with how the angel says it is going to happen,
but with the whole idea and what is going to happen
and how her life is going to change.

Lets be real,
this changes Mary's entire life
changes all of her relationships for the rest of her life
changes where and when and how and who
she will be dealing with for the rest of her life.
Just think about what is in store for her after this,
shepherds, angels, kings,
lame people,
crowds of poor people,
those twelve men who follow her son around and make a mess,
Roman soldiers,
rich patrons,
all with miles and miles of walking.

Yet, God had found favor with Mary.
We have no idea why.
The Bible doesn't give her qualifications for the position.
There is no interview with nicely printed resume.
Why would God chose Mary?

Why indeed would God choose any of us?
We are broken.
We are bruised.
We get grumpy so easily.
We are confused.
Seriously confused.
I swear,
the world these days
is enough to make anyone feel
grumpy, confused, and sad.

However, despite all that,
God chose Mary.
God chose me.
God chose you.

Because despite our brokenness,
despite our confusion,
despite our grumpiness,
God loved Mary.
God loves me.
God loves you.

God loves you.

Your life has value.
Even if you don't believe it at the moment.
God does.
God knows.
God has planted something in you.
Perhaps you know already what God has planted in you.
Perhaps you have no idea.
Perhaps you are starting to feel something
a thought, a feeling, a cause
growing,
inch by inch
unfurling
slowly
inside of you.

Some of what the Holy Spirit plants in us
only takes a few minutes to grow and come to fruition.
Some take so long
you can't even remember the beginning
when it wasn't an idea or a thought or a belief
Unfortunately
many of us get caught up in the questions
how can this be?
Why me?
and forget that it is simply God's grace
God's favor on us
We are God's favored ones

It doesn't matter how or why.
God will take care of that.

What can we do
except with Mary,
stand and say to God
Here I am.
Here I am of little value
Here I am confused
Here I am broken
Here I am grumpy
Here I am
I trust you God

and yet, what marvelous works we will see.

Amen.