Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Strange Visitor

A re-imagining of the Annunciation to Mary...

Mary plonked herself down onto her bed, exhausted.  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 it was her nearly-finished wedding robe...

You see, Mary was engaged to Joseph, the village carpenter.  Mary's mind started to wander as she stitched along the hem.  “I wonder what it’s going to be like - being married,” she thought. 

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, those feathers 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. The name’s Gabriel.   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?  Mary started to shake.  "I'm sorry, Angel," she said, "I didn't mean any dis-respect.  I thought you were Nathaniel from down the road...dressed up.  Oh crickey!  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.  Now listen...I've got really good news for you.  You are to be given the greatest gift that any woman has ever been given."

"Oh, my!" said Mary, 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 of Israel 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 forever."  (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.

"Tiny problem." said Mary.

"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.”

"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. " said the Angel, " You see, God doesn't approve of the kind of people who lord it over others in palaces.  His real passion is for those who are poor and humble"

"Well,” replied Mary, “they don't come much poorer than me.  I’ve even got to make my own wedding dress!" 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.”

"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 haven’t 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.  Jesus 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 love for the poor can be made clear.”

Mary slid forward off her bed, until she was kneeling on the floor in front of the Angel.  She could no longer deny what was happening to her.  "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.  

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

And about 2020 years later, in a little church in a little town called Havant, an image of the Angel Gabriel re-appeared.  It was frozen in stained glass, and it peered out from behind some scaffolding which the people of that church had erected to repair another window.  But the Angel wondered… 

Would the people of this building, raised in the name of Yeshua, truly and deeply understand the power of the story of the coming of the Lord?  Would they, like Yeshua, prioritise the needs of the poor, and the outcast, and of people from strange lands?  Would they let the greatest story ever told become their story too?  The Angel waited, and watched, his likeness frozen in glass. 

 And he hoped. 

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