Luke 1:30-34 (CEB)
30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.” 34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
So many conflicts in our lives are simple cases of miscommunication. Many times, once that miscommunication is identified, the confusion can be untangled pretty quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes the miscommunication is not so easy to identify because it lurks in that space between one person’s intentions and another person’s perceptions. It is often in that space the really big messes are made.
The last time I read Luke’s account of the Annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary I was struck by the apparent dissonance between the angel Gabriel’s excitement and Mary’s confusion. I visualize a very animated and expressive Gabriel standing in front of this blank-faced, slack-jawed young girl. Sure, Mary hears Gabriel’s words, she’s just not digesting them – and she’s definitely not as excited about the news as Gabriel is. The two of them are just not communicating on the same plane.
Granted, none of us is going to have the same experience Mary had with the angel Gabriel, but how many times have you been in the middle of a conversation that just doesn’t seem to make sense? Try as you might, you can’t seem to understand what the other person is saying to you or how you’re supposed to react. It just feels like you are not connecting with each other.
Sometimes I feel that way about the Advent season. We intend to tell a story of promise and hope, but what is often interpreted is more of an experience of stress, loneliness and disappointment. Sometimes our version of the perfect Christmas looks nothing like our reality and that dissonance can be very painful. Far too often, the space between the Gospels’ telling of the Christmas story and our interpretation of it can become a really big, tangled mess.
This Christmas, at PVUMC, we have chosen to stand right in the middle of that mess as we embrace the idea of “A Different Kind of Christmas.” Straining toward an unrealistic image of the holidays some advertising agency concocted is so far removed from the Truth of Christmas. This Advent season, let’s take some time to consider ways we can break free from the commercialized interpretation of the holiday season and, instead, prepare to receive the gift of grace of the true Christmas story.
Prayer: Gracious God, you broke into our midst to walk alongside us in the human experience, including all of our messes. Your gift of grace has freed us to live as peacefully and joyfully as you created us to be, not to become yoked to a commercialized ideal that only ever seems to disappoint. Help us to be more graceful in our words and actions so we might be agents of the Truth of Christmas. In Jesus’ name, and for his sake, Amen.
Pastor Eve Williams