Series: Angels Among Us: #DoNotBeAfraid – Flying in the Face of Fear at Advent
Title: “Make Ready a People: #morehope”
Luke 1:5-25, 57-80
December 2, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Waiting…Does anyone here enjoy waiting? We wait in line at the grocery store, the post office, airport check in or going through security. We wait in long lines at Disneyland, at retail stores, we wait in line to get lottery tickets, especially when the prize is exceedingly high. Where else do we wait? In line for the bathroom at sporting events – that’s probably only the women! Then there are lines at the movie theaters, concession stands, hospital emergency rooms, DMV; where else? I learned this week that “The average person throughout their lifetime spends five years waiting in lines and queues, and roughly six months of that is waiting at traffic lights.
Advent is a time of waiting, also. “Waiting for the Christ child, not just the reenactment of Jesus’ birth, but waiting for Christ to be born anew in our hearts, for God to “create a new heaven and a new earth” and for Christ to come again and the reign of God to come to this world.”
Waiting though can also cause problems for us. Waiting implies a passive stance, waiting for something to happen. What do you do while you wait? Bounce from one foot to the other? Read your iPhone, browse magazines at check out, watch videos at the airport? “When we wait for circumstances outside of ourselves to change in order to feel hope, peace, joy or love, or to live our lives fully, we rob ourselves of the change to have those things right now. Cultivating those things means we accept and claim our agency to make our lives our own and move freely into the future, no matter the circumstances of our lives or the world around us. And when we do that, we are living fully into who God calls us to be, because we have the power to make a difference – to help shift circumstances – rather than to live in fear of them.”
“So…the “waiting” in Advent can’t be a passive thing – the kind of waiting that believes that God doesn’t need us in order to make the world a better, safer place for all His people. This is the message that the angels who appear to Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds bring to us in this Advent series. They bring news, yes. But they also invite participation in the story. The message is “God is doing thus-and- such” and “you are part of it.” Get over your fear because God needs you! And in order for all this to happen, we all are going to need more hope, more peace, more joy, more love and more life all around. God needs us all to spread his word.”
The angels in the story of Christ’s birth are not your cute and cuddly cherub types. These angels are doing the heavy lifting, they bring a surprising message that begins each time with, “Do not be afraid.” I can only surmise that they were frightening to behold. They would scare the “you-know-what” out of those who crossed their path. They were a wake-up call and came with life-altering messages.” I believe that Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds were afraid because the angel frightened them in the moment and because they realized that God had called them into partnership with Him to invite the son of God into the world and they had a part to play.
When God calls us into partnership, it can be frightening can’t it? I know Zechariah was frightened. “It was just another day at the temple for Zechariah. It was his priestly turn to make sure everything was done properly and in good order. But it turned into something quite different when an angel showed up at the altar. Have you ever had a moment in your life, after which, you knew nothing would ever be the same? In the midst of great change, hope is always a welcome thing. Advent can remind us that God makes us ready for whatever unknown may come our way and calls us to be messengers of #morehope in an ever-changing world.
“The opposite of Hope that derives from fear: Despair. The message that Zechariah and Elizabeth will bear a son in their old age who will be a messenger for one who would be a savior for the people is a story of the unexpected nature of hope and the call to become a people “made ready” for God’s unexpected call to make a difference.
“To Zechariah’s incredulous “but I am old” comes Gabriel’s “but I am Gabriel!” (Who can argue with that?) Perhaps Zechariah’s “but…” is an analogy to what must be God’s frustration with our cynical responses to God’s call… “but… I’m not good enough” or “what can one person do?”
“The angel appearance is the breaking in of the divine into ordinary life, a theme in the Gospel of Luke. The appearance of an angel in the first chapter signals that this is an extraordinary story of divine events and yet it is set in the midst of very ordinary people. The message here is that one person can, and does, make a difference no matter how insignificant our contribution seems. God is calling us to become a people ready to be messengers of hope through our words and actions.”
We read in this story how an angel impacted Zechariah’s life and how from that moment on his life was profoundly changed. We are invited to think of times in our lives when a watershed moment happened, when life was altered – the life of a child, a coincidental meeting, the tragedy of loss of love, loss of life, loss of livelihood. Through these life-altering experiences we chance seeing angels among us. Or of being an angel among us. We are not passive participants in this life nor are we to sit back waiting for Christ and forget that Christ called us to share his love with the world. In a sense then, Christ has called us to be angels for others, to offer hope, peace, joy and love through small acts of obedience to God’s still small voice, obedience to the calling we have to be the hands and feet of Christ.
“Sometimes angels are portrayed in the scriptures, and certainly in religious art throughout history, as having wings. Just as angels are symbols of God’s messages to us, as God’s presence with us, feathers symbolize the Spirit of God, the ability to span any distance between heaven and earth, and the freedom of flight to new heights in our lives as we claim God’s possibilities for our lives and for our world.
“This season we invite you to take a feather and put it some place where you will be reminded to keep your eyes open to God’s messengers in your life and also God’s power to be a messenger of hope in the midst of each day, in encounters with each person you meet.” As you come for communion this morning, I invite you to receive a feather from the altar.
Let this feather be a reminder to us that “there are angels among us and God is making us ready to be messengers of hope, flying in the face of fear, in an ever-changing world.” Amen.