Monday, December 19, 2016

When the angel departs too soon

Each Advent season as I read through passages pointing to the birth of Jesus, I pray for fresh eyes to see the familiar story. Most years, God leads me to see something in the words that I've overlooked before. Today was the insight for this year and it comes from Mary's interaction with the angel, when she was told that she would be the mother of Jesus despite being a virgin. Read her response with me from Luke 1:38: "Mary responded, "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true." And then the angel left her."
My focus has always been on Mary's words, her humble and submissive response. There is much to learn from Mary, but today my heart was drawn to the next immediate phrase: "And then the angel left her."
I don't know about Mary, but I would have been tempted to protest the angel leaving and ask him to join me in telling my family and fiance! From our earthbound perspective, It seems such a strange time to leave a young girl alone.
But the truth is, Mary now had everything she needed to move forward with this hard but beautiful task God called her to do. She had a clear word from God and promise that whatever others would say in the months to come, HE was pleased with her. She knew everything He thought important to tell her about His beloved Son. It was enough, because her focus was on Him and not herself.
Soon, at what point we don't actually know, the Holy Spirit did come upon her and she did become miraculously pregnant with Jesus, who was fully God and fully man even in her womb. While she walked outwardly alone on the hard path of telling Joseph & her family, the deeper reality is that she was literally carrying within her the life of God Himself. He came to be Immanuel, God with us, and He demonstrated that first of all as God with her, His own mother.
"Mary did you know" captures some of this in the closing lines, "The sleeping child you're holding is the great I AM." But we could equally say, "The tiny seed inside you is the great I AM." Because of that, she was never alone - even when the angel left her.
Today, many of us are facing times when we wish God would send an angel to walk us through the fire, to trumpet the truth, to intervene on our behalf. I still believe He does that. But the greater miracle is coming to realize that, like Mary, when we belong to Him, even if He doesn't, He is still Immanuel, God with us. Paul put it this way in Colossians 1:27: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
Yes, the angel departed just when Mary might have thought she needed him the most. But God had spoken. And it was enough.

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