Luke's nativity narrative, about particular people in a particular place at a particular time, is the story of the incarnation, the embodiment of God inhuman history. It is also the story of true faith. Luke's is the only Gospel that tells the whole story. He begins at the beginning. Matthew's Gospel announces the birth and focuses on the coming of the magi and the shepherds. Mark and John have no birth stories at all. They begin with the grown up John recognizing the grown up Jesus as the Messiah when John baptizes Jesus. But Luke gives us a womb story. He takes us back to when the first person announced the Coming of the Messiah, Elizabeth, as she interprets the meaning of her gestating infant leaping in her womb as the yet-to-be born John recognizes the just-conceived Jesus. Both the prophet, John, and the messiah, Jesus, were sheltered within the bodies of the very pregnant and barely pregnant mothers. Both women live the very first Advent. One very old, one very young. Both women accepted the unexpected task given to each of them on the solely on the strength of their faith in God to fulfill whatever God promised, no matter how hard it was for them to understand. The Messiah was recognized as having come among us, even before he was born. But when the angel Gabriel visited the priest, Zechariah, Elizabeth's husband, announcing to him his wife's coming pregnancy, Zechariah didn't trust the messenger. His disbelief required proof. So Gabriel shut Zechariah's mouth until the child was born. Not much of a faith story there! Elizabeth however, credits God's grace and favor for her conceiving so late in life and didn't question it, but rather she wrapped herself in solitude for the first five months of her pregnancy, waiting for the birth, until the young Mary came to be with her for the last three months of her pregnancy, until Elizabeth's child, John, was born. Then Zechariah finally had the proof he needed to believe. Mary was confused by the Angel Gabriel's news of her coming conception, asking only. "How can this be?" and when Gabriel explained about the Holy Spirit's role, Mary immediately embraces the possibility and surrenders to the task given to her. "I am the servant of God. Let it be done to me as you say." Mary enters into her own Advent, waiting for the coming of her child, Jesus. While she is not sure about how she could conceive, she does not question the angel's prophesy about the child's future role and destiny.
Sometimes it is just best to hear from the scriptures themselves. So listen as I read Luke 1:1-45 from the Inclusive New Testament. Listen to the whole story, so that we understand the entire context instead of a snippet, from the lectionary. There is no other way to get the big picture of what Advent means for us today. But listen to determine just who you identify with in your own life. Read Luke 1:1 -45
So who do you identify with?
Is it with the expert, educated Zechariah, who questions and needs proof before he believes that what God promises will be fulfilled? Is it with hopeless Elizabeth, who experiences and embraces a new generativity, a new creativity, despite her stage of life? Is it with the young Mary, who can't quite fathom what she is told she is to do, but who answers with a resounding yes anyway, becoming God's servant willingly and wholeheartedly in the creative, generative task that faces her?
What is coming in our own lives? What do each of us need to prepare for? What is the creative, generative task God is asking of each of us no matter how old or how young? What is happening in the Advent of our own lives? I can't tell you what that is. But God's spirit can. Will we, like Elizabeth and Mary, answer with whole-hearted faith and surrender to whatever God is asking of us?