Echo of Hope -- Part 2


DSC 0061 - Version 2

Echo of Hope (Acrylic on Canvas)

Today, we continue our story of hope fulfilled.  Yet this related story acts as a striking contrast to the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Instead of a barren couple having a prayer answered and a long awaited hope fulfilled, we encounter Mary, who is to be surprised by hope.  Two millennia ago, hope was on its way to finding fulfillment in the humble village of a place called Nazareth.  Today, we would picture this kind of town as a whistle-stop, or a one traffic light sort of place.  Two thousand plus years ago, hope was on its way to being enfleshed, and God would use a willing maiden as a vessel.  

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

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.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)


Once again, we encounter Gabriel.  The same angel, the same messenger of God that came to Zechariah, now comes to Mary.  Luke gives us the context of Mary's story in relation to Elizabeth's story, inextricably linking the two stories.  Elizabeth is in her sixth month of pregnancy in the town of Ein Karem (90 miles south, as the crow flies, of Nazareth).  


Mary is a young maiden, probably between twelve and fourteen years of age.  She is engaged to Joseph, but they have not yet consummated the marriage.  Mary, being of the line of David is significant and points already to prophecies being fulfilled about the Messiah.  We will later hear Jesus called Son of David.  Mary, probably going about her normal routine, has had a life altering interruption, a holy encroachment.  Here in the midst of the ordinary, the extraordinary has broken in on the scene. 

This chronicle of hope is not so much about a personal hope being fulfilled, as we saw in Zechariah and Elizabeth, but this story is about the hope of Israel being fulfilled, the hope of the world being brought to fruition.  The long-awaited Messiah, is approaching.  Jesus, the source of salvation, healing, and wholeness, is coming among us.  And Mary has been chosen to be the vessel, the bearer of Immanuel, of God with us.  This echo of hope whispers across the land, that though a fresh word from God has not been recorded for around 400 years, now God is speaking, through Gabriel, and when God speaks action occurs.  

  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 

Genesis 1:3 (NIV)

 

John the Baptist's coming is close at hand, and now Jesus' birth is on the horizon.  Like Zechariah, Mary is troubled by the presence of Gabriel and his words.  Again, Gabriel offers words of comfort, "Do not be afraid."  When Gabriel tells Mary for what she has been chosen and what will occur, Mary asks a simple point of clarification.  She is not doubting as Zechariah did, but curious as to how it will occur.  She knows that she is betrothed to Joseph but is still a virgin.  Gabriel lovingly answers her question.  Not only does Gabriel answer her question, but Gabriel also gives her a companion for her journey by telling her of Elizabeth (whom Mary will make haste to go see after Gabriel leaves her).  The journey to Elizabeth would probably have taken her around 10 days on foot.    

Mary, in a radical act of faith, surrenders herself to be a vessel of hope, to be used according to God's purpose.  The long awaited hope of the Messiah is to be fulfilled in this young maiden of Nazareth.  I can just imagine Mary later trying to explain this all to her parents. 

As Christians, we realize that the hope of the world finds its fulfillment in Jesus the Christ.  That day so many years ago altered everything.  In the moment of Mary's "Yes," hope made its dwelling among us, among humanity.  God is intimate and personal.  The same God who is Lord of lords and King of kings is also Immanuel.  

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation 21:1-6


We, too, have been called to be bearers of hope.  How, during this Advent season and beyond, can you offer hope to others?  How have you been called to share the presence of God, to birth the Holy?  Last Advent I participated in an online retreat entitled Birthing the Holy.  That concept of each of us being called to Birth the Holy still resonates with me.  God has chosen to make God's dwelling among us, and we have, in turn, been called to offer that presence, that love, that, hope in the very way that we live, through both our actions and words.  How will you enter into the story of Mary this advent season?  What will your radical, "Yes!" look like?  How has the presence of God forever transformed your life?  


Let us pray:  In You, Oh Lord, we live and move and have our being.  We surrender ourselves to You as vessels of hope.  Use us, fill us, and move us according to Your will and purposes.  We are not our own but Yours.  Open our eyes, this season and beyond, to how we can offer your love, presence, and hope to the world.  And until You come again, may we be Your emissaries of hope, peace and love.  In the name of Jesus the Christ, Immanuel, we pray.  Amen.

  


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