If clergy are allowed to have favourite pieces of scripture then the Gospel Lesson we are using on Sunday has got to be one of mine (Luke 1.24-36). It is the Annunciation of the Lord Jesus to Mary. In recent weeks there has been a show on television put together by a bunch people, for a purpose that is not totally clear to me. That is unless they wish to shoot do all the traditional doctrine that surrounds Jesus that has accumulated over the past two millenniums and try to rip out the foundations of the largest faith on the planet.
Problem is, not one of these people is a trained theologian. They are professors from history and religious studies departments and they have no training in terms of theology. Worse, they are posing modern, post enlightenment writing standards on what was a largely oral culture. Was there editing and revision? Yes. Of course there was. It took time for the things that the Church believed to be delineated and accepted. The Scriptures are holy to the community because they belong to the community. Modern understandings of ancient texts cannot begin with a word processor. It didn’t work that way. Altering a text was done in and by the community, not just a single solitary soul. The community accepted what was written and it took time for the Scriptures to become sacred to the community.
One of the things that makes this particular passage powerful for me is the fact that Luke, in order to get his orderly account, must have spent time with Mary and the family from which Jesus came. Mary herself must have at some point relayed something of the experience of the Annunciation. It is why we have it. It points to the great truths to the wider story of God working out our rescue, our salvation. The Annunciation is the fulfilling of the promise that was made in those awful, final moments in the Garden.
What promise? Try Genesis 3.15, when God tells the serpent that there will be hostilities between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent; that the serpent will strike his heel and the Seed of the Woman will crush him. God in Christ is working to bring us back and to bring us home that we can be with him and be with him forever and ever. There is nothing and no one that will stop that. One day he will come again, and the angels and the new City and we will be with him.
It is not something that diviners can see. It is not something that any historian or university professor can predict. This is God’s doing and it ought to be marvelous in our eyes. He has made his dwelling among us and we have seen the glory of the One and only, full of grace and truth (John 1.14-18)
Take time to be with family this Christmas. Take the time to be with friends and those whom you care about and who care for you. And in the midst of it all, make room for him who loves us; who left his Father’s presence to bring us home and spend some time giving thanks that our rescue is in hand for what is ahead. And most of all remember what Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you have said.”