Today, I had the opportunity to give a short homily at our church here in Chicago. It was my first one (!) and I wanted to share it with you here on the blog. Click the audio thingy above to play it in your ears or read below (or both)!
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Let’s wait until we’re ready.
We will... When the time is right.
Those were the sentiments my wife and I shared during the early years of our marriage before Rory - our now 6-year-old daughter - was born.
We’re not ready... Yet.
And then, one day, about four years into marriage, we had a realization... We were never going to be ready. The time would never be ‘right’. And so we surrendered to the longing we both shared to have a baby. Which, as unprepared as we were, we did very shortly after the Spirit moved us to submit to the “coming of Rory” - as I say:) And life, that one night in our small home in Reno, NV, changed forever. With a miraculous team of midwives and doulas buzzing around, a couple of hours past midnight after my birthday in the summer of 2013, life forever changed from BR to AR (Before Rory to After Rory).
But I’m getting ahead of the story here. Because in this moment of Advent, we’re still waiting. Still preparing for the incarnation.
And Mary, when the angel Gabriel came to her and announced that she’d carry the Christ-child, wasn’t ready. She didn’t live in a cushy Pinterest-worthy home. She was a poor and unwed teenage woman in first-century Palestine. As cheery as Gabriel sounded when he made the announcement of her immaculate pregnancy, I’d imagine it didn’t seem like good news. The timing was a little off, to say the least.
How many times in your life has the good news first sounded a whole lot like bad news?
But in the story, it’s astounding how shockingly fast Mary’s hesitation turns into a wholehearted “Yes” to this inconvenient mission. And thankfully, she found solidarity with her cousin, Elizabeth, a pronounced “barren woman” who the angel also announced was miraculously 6-months pregnant (with who’d be named John, the baptizer). Elizabeth and her husband, Zecharia were likely not ready either.
So much of life’s stress comes from the weight we place on our own shoulders to prepare for the worst. To figure it all out beforehand. We want to be safe and comfortable and provide for those we love. We wouldn’t want to be a burden on anyone, would we? It’s all well-intended stuff. Our self-salvation plans look so perfect in our minds. If things will only work out like... that...
But life hardly ever does. Especially the best things. And this time of year, when the Advent police are out making sure everyone is “preparing” perfectly for Christmas (don’t you dare celebrate, yet!!) - know that it’s actually impossible to be perfectly ready for what God has in store for you and all of us.
But like Mary, may we be blessed with the wisdom to surrender our idea of good news for the Good News of God that comes whether we’re ready or not. And may we find solidarity with others who aren’t ready either.