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.” – Luke 1:30-31
An appropriate place to start Advent is with Mary, mother of our Lord. Here was a young woman, probably just in her teens, when the angel came to her.
In and of itself, just the appearance of the angel would be a defining moment in one’s life, right?! But this angelic appearance was much more than just a fleeting apparition. This angel had a life- (and history-) altering message:
- First, the angel proclaimed to Mary that she had “found favor with God.” Let me ask: How many of us have occasionally doubted our level of faith or God’s acceptance of our imperfectly sinful selves? The angel’s first proclamation – “you have found favor with God” – would alone have qualified as life-definingly-good-news. And yet, this revelation was just beginning.
- Second, the angel proclaimed that something miraculous was going to happen. He said, essentially, that “even though you’re still a virgin, you are to conceive and bear a child.” Again, this new alone would have been stunning, but the angel had still more to share …
- Finally, the angel told Mary her infant would “be the Son of the Most High who will reign forever.” And that news was not just life-changing for Mary, it was history-changing for all humanity! Did Mary – young and surely wrapping her head around the improbably impossible – consider this good news, yet? We don’t know about Mary at that moment, but we do know that this was the beginning of the Good News for all humanity!
Now, what does this all mean in terms of simplicity? Well, do you remember this line from “Joy to the World”: “Let every heart prepare him room”? Mary’s presumably simple life was suddenly massively complicated. Suddenly pregnant, her body began to literally prepare room for Jesus in her soon swelling womb. Practically, she had to prepare room in her life for a baby, adjusting her life to the realities of unexpected motherhood. Emotionally, she had ponder how this shocking news would be received by her parents, her gossiping village, and most especially, her fiancée who surely feel confused, angry, and betrayed. How would all these people make room in their hearts for her, and how would her heart make room and allowances for their disbelief and judgment?
Finally, Mary had to make greater room for God in her life. Surely God chose her in part because she already was greatly faithful, but this was a daunting new reality! The only way this teen could survive such a once-in-history-moment would be to draw closer and closer to God. She had to rely totally on his power, his truth, his love, his provision, his priorities, his blessing and acceptance. She had to strip everything else away and focus fully on God.
And that’s what Advent invites us to do. Instead of becoming consumed with to-do’s, we’re invited to slow down, strip everything else away, and focus fully on God. Advent is about spiritual “spaciousness” – “Let every heart prepare him room.” Mary had to strip everything else away and physically, practically, emotionally, and spiritually make room for this nativity reality.
This holy Advent season, what might you do to strip away the excesses – physically, practically, emotionally, and spiritual?
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who is mostly done
shopping for Christmas already
– we’re buying less, focusing more,
and have it out of the way already.
Advent is now the focus.