And [the angel] came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But [Mary] was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” Luke 1: 28-29
The Lord is with you! What a strange greeting in the midst of a chaotic season. All around us is the noise of a world searching for meaning which in many ways is not as disconnected as we might think from the world of Mary in the gospel verse which opens our letter.
This verse is found in Luke’s account of the Annunciation, which is where the season of Advent starts: the great waiting of nine months for the birth of Christ at the manger, the great interruption of God into the world, the great in-breaking of the kingdom made flesh in Christ. As the world quickens, we are asked to slow down. While the world makes merry, we are asked to ponder in our hearts the mystery of God made human in Christ. In a world searching for hope in the midst of despair, we proclaim: The Lord is with you! What a scary prospect in a world full of hopelessness and scarcity. How could the angel be right? How could God even come into this mess?
Like Mary, we are interrupted by hope in our daily lives. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary at the Annunciation, God interrupted Mary’s everyday world with a message of hope so profound it seemed almost impossible. Against all odds, Mary was to have a baby, a child, who was to change the world. Mary’s life went from the normalcy of a young woman to a mother in a heartbeat, a beat which changed the world. It is in this world, where God still remains so active and so intimate with us in everything we do, that His heartbeat is only a touch, a glance, a breath away. The Lord truly is with us! Often it takes us being interrupted to really feel it, and Advent is all about interruption.
Mary had an idea of where she was going in life. She was betrothed to Joseph. Life made sense, it felt normal. We are not so dissimilar from Mary in the normal we seek or feel in our lives. Society tells us we need to be something, to be of worth to the larger society. At Christmas that awareness becomes very acute. The frenzy of gifts, dinners, parties, expectations, noise…it’s a lot to take! Like Mary, we can feel perplexed by these mixed messages: a Church which calls us to slow and silence, in the midst of a world which demands more of what is supposed make us happy.
Every January we make pledges and promises to not do that again, or change this about ourselves. I wonder: what would life be like if we embraced our deepest selves and became aware that we are loved beyond our wildest imaginations as we are today. I wonder how that would change our experience of the manger. Maybe it would bring it closer - into our hearts, our souls, our lives. Because that’s what happened with Mary. She felt the profound love and trust of God’s interruption into her life, and that interruption changed the world. God calls to us, through Mary’s perplexing greeting, to encounter him anew in the manger and be interrupted by His hope. This hope for us is abundant, and there are many ways to experience it this Advent at St. Anselm’s as we prepare for the coming of Christ into our darkness.
With Prayer, Community and Sacrament, we allow a pause and a place for God to interrupt our lives with his hope-filled message of love from the manager. I invite you to consider taking advantage of some of these spiritual practices and sacred events during Advent this year.
A Christmas offering, is one way we reflect on the power of God’s transformative love in our lives. God interrupts our world and changes us, asking us to come deeper into relationship with him so that we can change the world around us. Over this last year we have continued to accept God’s call to go deeper and be interrupted by his love in our midst. Through your generosity you have baptized one new member for God’s universal church. You are preparing multiple potential candidates for baptism. You are teaching nine children about the love of God in Christ through Sunday school. You are counselling couples as they make their way towards marriage. You are working with other Christian churches to respond to the needs of your neighbourhood. You are giving our university students support and love as they learn and grow into God’s vision for their lives. You are clothing the naked, feeding the poor, tending the sick, and equipping the saints for ministry in the West Point Grey Neighbourhood of Vancouver. Consider making an offering of yourself this Advent season, the world needs your efforts.
God calls to you, through Mary and Christ in the manger this Christmas. God loves you beyond any possible imagination and graced you with gifts so precious and unique that the world be ablaze with beauty because of you. God is calling you to life in him through the infant of the manger.
The Lord is with you! God is here. How will you respond?
Vicar, St. Anselm’s Anglican Church
these lands upon which we worship as the ancestral, cultural, traditional and unceded lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people from time immemorial.