A Mary Christmas: “Return to Sender”

December is here! Or should I say “Christmas month” is here? Well, as usher in this advent season, in anticipation of our commemoration of the birth of Christ, I thought I should share with you a short series of blog post that I penned about 3 years ago while meditating on the series of events that preceded the birth of Christ. Although the words are 3 years old, I believe that the message is both timely and timeless. Back then, I didn’t even have a blog, so, this is pretty much like sharing something new. The series, titled A Mary Christmas, focusses on some of the lessons Christians may learn from Mary’s experience before, during and just after the birth of Christ. Today and tomorrow, I will be posting the three-part series on the blog. Here’s part 1:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” [Luke 1:26-28]

I am persuaded that the angel’s greeting [above] was not just prophetic, it was also perplexing to Mary. I can’t help but wonder if Mary was more perplexed by the angel’s visitation or the angel’s salutation. I think the moment she saw the supernatural being in the middle of the room, she knew she was about to witness something spectacular. She had heard of angels and what they could do. She knew of the famous story of her ancestor, Jacob, wrestling with an angel. Memories of stories she’d heard about the Egyptian firstborn’s massacre were still fresh in her mind. However, the first words from the angel’s lips were the last words Mary expected to hear.

The angel’s greeting must have been confusing to Mary because the stage that Luke sets does not even come close to deserving such a visitation, let alone such a salutation.

The address: A small insignificant one camel town on the outskirts of a fishing district.

The addressee: A poor girl in her teens.

The messenger: An angel of God.

The message: Blessings and Favor.

Is it just me or does the message and the messenger seem not to match the address and the addressee? What is a heavenly being doing visiting a a poor earthly (and earthy) village? Why is a rich man’s message (blessings and favor) being directed at a poor girl’s ears? Something is wrong with this picture. Maybe angel Gabriel had the wrong address.

He was used to the big stuff: fire on the mountain and earthquakes in the valleys, not mud in the streets and tin cans for roof tops. This was definitely the wrong address.

He was used to the big guns: Moses, Elijah and David, not a young peasant girl barely out of her teens. This was definitely the wrong addressee.

Angel Gabriel may have been used to all the big names and big places, but there’s something else that compelled Gabriel to obey despite these great apparent contradictions; he was used to a big God and he had seen what this big God could do with little people.

Gabriel may not have been used to delivering God’s blessing parcels to unknown and insignificant girls in obscure villages, but he had witnessed the same God transform the lives of unknown and insignificant men.

Gabriel had seen God transform Moses; an experienced shepherd of sheep into an experienced leader of millions (who, by the way, behaved very much like the sheep).

Gabriel had witnessed God transform Gideon from a spineless wimp, into a fearless warrior. In fact he recalls delivering the message to Gideon. It sounded very much like the message he was currently delivering to Mary. “The Lord is with you, Mighty warrior”, he recalls saying to Gideon, the wimp.

I wonder what Gabriel thought of this. Did he think that God had gone too far this time? Did he think that God had overdone Himself? Maybe he did, but who am I to know what angels think?

What do I even know about angels? Do they even think in the first place? Do they have angel brains full of angelic thoughts? I barely even know anything about eagles, let alone eagles. But I do know a lot about you, the person reading this post, and I know even more about me, the person writing it. Trust me we have a lot more in common than you may think. I know how we would have received such a message because we have already opened such letters from our mailboxes before, but we discarded them as junk mail. Even when that evangelist continually told us that God loved us, that God wanted to save us and favor us, we were skeptical. We were convinced that he had the wrong address. We quickly stamped “return to sender” on the unopened envelope. We did not believe. We couldn’t.

(To be continued…)

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