Advent 4B; Luke 1:46 ff; 12/20/20
Do you believe in angels? Have you ever heard the voice of an angel in a quiet moment or seen or heard an angel in a dream? God’s messengers can come to us in many ways.
If you had been visited by an angel, would you hesitate to tell another? If so, we might be able to identify in some way with Mary who didn’t tell anyone about her experience with Gabriel until she traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth. After all, if you saw or heard an angel, who would you tell? Who would listen to you and not back away, give you a funny look, change the subject or all of a sudden excuse themselves, remembering that they had another appointment that they had forgot about.
Gabriel offered compassion to Mary telling her that her cousin Elizabeth was also with child, thus giving her someone with whom to confide. How uncomfortable it is when we have a spiritual experience, or a struggle and there is no one to hear us to break the isolation.
There’s a certain vulnerability in telling the story of our spiritual experience. Jesus remarked on this in Matthew 7 “not to cast our pearls before swine” because of the risk of having our spirit and our experiences dishonored. Yet we face the paradox in Luke 8 when we hear after Jesus heals the Gerasene demoniac from his demons to “tell others what God has done for you.”
The pattern of the early church reveals an eagerness of its disciples to reveal the work of the Spirit in their lives. The Church today is much more timid than Mary’s day, more reluctant I think to tell others what God has done in our lives. I ponder why that is?
Gabriel visits Mary and Mary has a story to tell that she is blessed among women.
Are we not also blessed among others? Do we consider ourselves as beings who are blessed? How have we been blessed? Is being blessed is just for those few special people in the Bible? Or is being blessed for each of us? Do we feel blessed by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon after being inundated with phone calls, texts, computers that don’t work, crabby bosses or employees, losing a job, the faucet that broke at home, the assaults and deceptions of the media, sick children or grandchildren, and the list goes on…?
Why would God have sent Gabriel to Mary had it not been to pass the blessing on to us?
When we receive that blessing again on Christmas to whom will we go? What shall we tell them?
Is there not a Mary and an Elizabeth in each of us? Mary has received a story and is bursting at the seams with no one to tell except for a cousin over a day’s journey away. Telling the story is vital for our spiritual health or it becomes dormant within and soon becomes trampled upon and lost by the tasks of the day which are pale in comparison.
Is there not an Elizabeth within us who is able to hear the story of Mary and others who desperately need to tell the good news bequeathed to them or release the sorrow of a painful event?
Gabriel points us to the Mary and Elizabeth within us all—to the necessity of the hearing and the telling the Life of God imparted to us all. Share the Story. Receive the Story. This is our birth rite and the most important daily task we can ever be about.
May the Incarnation be enfleshed in you,
Fr. Mark Bigley
Church of Annunciation, Episcopal