Are We Prepared?

Soon, we begin again.

Whatever the story of Jesus may be to the high angels, to us it must, like any other story, involve a begin- ning. The place where his story begins is a place. The time when it begins is a time. The person it begins with is a woman:

“And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city in Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. … And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS.” — Frederick Buchner

Almost every time God interacts with the people of God, God sends a messenger to make us ready. An angel was sent to Abraham, to Moses, to Elijah, to Elizabeth, and of course, to Mary. Later on, as the church was in its in- fancy, God sent an angel to Saul of Tarsus. And, even “in our maturity,” God sends messengers to make us ready.

I believe God sends messengers to the prophets of our time; messengers preparing voices to speak and bodies to act. Martin Luther King most certainly was spoken to by one of God’s holy messengers, calling him to serious conversation and serious work. Surely, Desmond Tutu listened to a holy whisper calling him to a ministry that was not only dangerous to he and his family, but also to the people he spoke for. Surely, Malala Yousafzai heard a voice deep in her soul calling her to speak for women and girls.

The messengers keep on speaking, bringing us the voice of God. And every Advent we are called to listen and to embark upon the journey we have been called to engage by God’s messengers.

For some of us, we are called to speak; for others, to act.

But not unlike Moses, Abraham, Mary, and the others, we are afraid. Our reality turns upside down when we are touched by messengers of God; the voice of God. The ground upon which we stand gives way, the air seems harder to inhale, that which is familiar becomes not so familiar. We stand alone, or so it seems.

This Advent is not like any other Advent. What is the same of course, is that it begins with a miracle. An angel announces to Mary and announces to us, that a boy named Jesus is about to enter our sphere of being. He will be the child of God, he will be the Prince of Peace, and there will be no end to his kingdom. Justice shall reign and we will be loved by God, always.

But what is different is that today is not yesterday. Today, we live
 in a world that is not peaceful; human rights are not at the forefront in many nations, and fear is the new currency of public debate and public discourse.

And yet, the messenger persists; and we answer, with Mary:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices
 in God my saviour... His mercy is for those who fear Him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm, He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; He has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.

No matter the times, no matter the circumstances, the instruction that we receive from the messenger of God is this: fear not, do not be afraid.

Speak of those things of God; peace, justice, compassion, love for the needy and marginalized, and hope, let us never forget hope. We live in the promise that God is with us always. May our anthem this holy Advent be what Mary said to the messenger of God, “…be it unto me according to thy word.”

Buchner rightly says to all of us as we gather in community and in prayer, “The announcement has been made and heard. The world is with child.” We know how to prepare for the coming of a child, but will we prepare?

Are we prepared to not be afraid? Are we prepared to speak of those things of God? Are we prepared to love unconditionally? Are we prepared to seek peace rather than just speak of it? Are we prepared to trust in the holy hope Jesus brings to us, regardless of our limited understanding of the God who created us? Are we prepared…

Do not be afraid!

Written by: The Rt. Rev. John H Chapman, Bishop of Ottawa.
Originally published: Crosstalk, November 2017.

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