Advent can be overwhelming, not so much as a religious season but as a season of the year within our culture. It can feel like a trap of schedules, financial demands, social demands, expectations of family and friends. It can also be a time, crushed as it is between Thanksgiving and Christmas, of re-lived losses, absent friends, lost tempers and tantrums. Add any life-stress to it, and you have a perfect life-storm.
I often think how easily we clean up the story of the Annunciation. Put enough lace and music to anything and I guess it becomes pretty. Even the Charlie Brown TV Christmas Special has the Christmas Pageant rather sanitized … an angel, a docile woman in a blue bathrobe with a towel on her head, a question, an immediate and humble “yes” within the poetry of a song of mythic proportions. It is all lovely and mystical. But was it?
For Mary, being told that she would become pregnant in a small town in which pregnancy outside marriage was punishable by stoning, I am not so sure it was all so clean, so meek or so mild.
When I am afraid, and I am often, I look up for an escape window. I wonder if Mary was looking at just such a window when the angel of light appeared in hers? What I find (and this is how I know there is a God who is acting and who loves us) is that when I am in trouble, an angel appears. Now, I admit, the angels are in human form and they are people I know. But still, I notice that when I am in trouble, people appear – at just the right time, in just the right way, saying just the right things to return me to my life and my work and my friends and to myself.
God is never early, but God is never absent either. That is the entire point of incarnation.