Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent 4 - Mary meets an angel

An imaginative re-telling of the Annuciation

Mary plonked herself down onto her bed.  "Crikey, I'm tired!" she said.  It had been a long day of household chores.  But now, Mary had one more important job do.  She reached down, under her bed, and pulled out an old basket.  Inside was her nearly-finished wedding robe...the one she had been working on for the past several weeks.

Mary was engaged to Joseph, the old carpenter in the village.  No-one knew why Joseph had not been married before...perhaps he had been waiting for the right girl to come along.  Mary's mind started to wander as she stitched along the hem.  “I wonder what it’s going to be like - being married.  Come to that - what's it going to be like to kiss him?  He's got that great big bushy beard...I wonder whether it will tickle!”

At that moment, unbeknown to Mary, something began to happen in the corner of her room - just over her shoulder.  A twinkle in the air.  Now a soft glow. Then, suddenly, a tall figure with wings on his back appeared in the corner.

"Greetings!" said the figure.

Mary jumped out of her skin!  "Where did you come from?", she demanded.  "You shouldn't creep up on people like that!"

The tall figure with the wings, looked a little surprised at her reaction.  People usually quaked in fear when he appeared.  He wasn't used to being told off.  "Sorry", he mumbled.  "Didn't mean to startle you.  Can I go on now?"

"Alright"  said Mary, thinking that this tall fellow looked a little bit like one of Mrs Cohen's sons, from down the road.  "What's this all about....and why have you got those wings clipped onto your coat?  Are you going to a fancy dress party?"

"They're not clipped onto my coat." said the tall man.  "They're sticking out of my coat...they're my wings."

"Oh," said Mary who was beginning to realise that this wasn't Mrs Cohen's boy after all.  "Who are you?"

"I'm an Angel", said the Angel.
"Get away!" said Mary.  "You're pulling my leg.  What's this...some kind of prank?"

"No, really", said the Angel.  "I'm an actual, real, Angel.  Sent by God.  I've got a very important message for you. You are really very favoured you know.  Not everyone gets a real Angel sent with a message from God."

Mary was distinctly puzzled by now.  An Angel?  Sent to her?  Here in little Nazareth?  What ever can it mean?  Confronted by the reality of the situation, Mary started to shake.  "I'm sorry, Angel," she said, "I didn't mean any dis-respect.  I thought you looked like Nathaniel from down the road...dressed up.  Oh blimey!  What have I done?"

The Angel looked kindly at Mary.  "Don't worry about it, Mary.  Don't be afraid.  It was an easy mistake to make.  Visits from Angels are pretty rare, after all.  Now listen..."

"Ok," said Mary.  "I'm all ears!"

"Mary," the Angel started again, patiently, "I've got really good news for you.  You are to be given the greatest gift that any woman has ever been given."

"Gosh!" said Mary, all agog.

"Yes," the Angel went on, "You are going to have a baby, sent from God.  You are to name him Yeshua"

"What, like Yeshua who led the People into the Promised Land?"  Mary enquired...trying to take in what the Angel was saying.

"Yes," said the Angel, "Just like that...although years from now people will change the way they pronounce it, and will call him Jesus."  The Angel drew himself up to his full height, and started to proclaim, slightly pompously, "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever."  (The Angel was really working himself up to a climax now...the big finish.)  "His kingdom will never end...and..."

"Erm...", said Mary, holding up a finger.

"What now?!" said the Angel - a little bit annoyed that he had been stopped in mid-flow like that.

"Tiny problem." said Mary.  "Just a tincy wincy little problem"

"What?!" said the Angel

"Well, you see, I don't think I can have a baby.  I'm not married yet.  Haven't even kissed Joseph yet.  Do you know whether beards tickle, by the way?"  The Angel took a deep breath.

A little pomposity crept into his voice again.

"Nothing is impossible for God.  The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy baby that will be born will be the Son of God."  Suddenly, he had an idea.  "Haven't you heard about Elizabeth?"

"What, my cousin Elizabeth?"  Mary said.  "What about her?"

"She's pregnant....has been for six months"

"Never!" said Mary.  "But she's really old!"

"Nothing is impossible for God", repeated the Angel.

"Well," said Mary.  "It all sounds very unlikely, I must say.  I mean, why on earth would God choose a peasant like me to bear his son. The son of God will be born in the palace, surely? Are you sure those wings are real?"

"I'm completely sure.  You see, God doesn't like the kind of people who lord it over others in palaces.  He's much more interested in the poor and the humble"

"Get away!" said Mary.  "Well, they don't come much poorer than me.  Even got to make my own wedding robe" she said, holding up her sewing for the Angel to see.

"It's always been God's way.  Right back to the dawn of time.  Don't you know your history?  Don't you remember how God rescued your ancestors when they were slaves?  Don't you remember how he gave you a land to inhabit, even though you were just wandering nomads?  God has always had a heart for the poor.  People whose lives are not cluttered up with stuff are so much closer to him.  You know, God said to me only the other day that Moses only become interesting when he had stopped being a prince.  God had been talking to him for years...but Moses only heard him when he had become a poor goat-herder up a mountain."

"Hmm," said Mary, still not quite convinced.  "Let me get this straight.  I'm going to have a baby, right?"

"Yep" said the Angel

"Even though I've not even kissed Joseph yet?"

"Even then"

"And my baby is going to be the Son of God...even though he will be born in this little hut?"

"Well," said the Angel cautiously, "He won't actually be born here..."

"Why not?" asked Mary, suspiciously

"It'll be a bit more rustic than this"

"A bit more rustic?  How much more rustic do you want it?" said Mary, pointing at her surroundings.

"Umm" said the Angel, with a worried look in his eye, "Think donkeys.  And cows"

"What!" exclaimed Mary.  "My baby is going to be born in a field?!"

"Oh no!", said the Angel.  "Nothing as bad as that.  More like a stable"

"A stable!" said Mary.

"Mary..." said the Angel, a little sternly.  "You've got to trust me.  You've got to trust God.  God knows what he is doing.  Yeshua has to be born somewhere that no-one would expect a king to be born.  He's got to be born in utter that God's priority for the poor and the humble can be made clear.  In years to come, people will help one another in his name, precisely because of his humble origins.  He will be one of the people, born like the poorest of the that the people will take him to their hearts and trust him.  Besides, it shouldn’t surprise you if you think about your history.  Right up to the days of King Solomon, God only had a tent to live in – travelling around with your ancestors "

Mary slid forward off her bed, until she was kneeling on the floor in front of the Angel.

"I am the Lord's servant", she said.  "May it be to me as you have said"

The Angel smiled.  Mary had accepted what he had told her.  She had tasted something of her future, and the future that would be shaped by her Son.  Satisfied that his task was complete, the Angel slowly faded from Mary's view.  

Mary's heart was full to bursting...and she sang...

"My soul is bursting with God's news!
I'm dancing the song of my Saviour-God!
God took one look at me, and look what happened -
I am the most fortunate woman on Earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe of him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He has knocked tyrants off their high horses
and pulled their victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold..."

In the corner of Mary's room, the smile of an Angel hung in the air for a few seconds.  And was gone

No comments:

Post a Comment