Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. – Luke 1:26-38
Believe it or not, we’re less than a week away from Christmas Day! Mathematically, with Christmas falling on a Sunday, this year has been the longest Advent possible. But that’s only one way to measure time, and in many ways we’ve been racing through December.
Yesterday was the “Fourth Sunday in Advent,” and the sense of anticipation for Christmas around Wake Forest Presbyterian Church is electric. Advent worship – especially the praise service down in the Christian Life Center – is a curious mixture of tradition and contemporary. A beautiful candle-lighting against the backdrop of concrete walls; wreaths in front of basketball nets; richly embroidered paraments alongside speakers, guitars, and drums; the stage, adorned with Christmas trees, liturgical banners; God with us, God in us, God through us, God for us. Authentic worship will effectively sanctify any space.
During Rebekah’s extended recovery I’ve given a brief report on her progress during the time for announcements, both at 9:00 and 11:15. Hopefully this week was the last time I’ll need to do that, so my friend John took a couple of photos for posterity.
My practice has been to read Rebekah’s prepared notes, then frame them with a comment of two of my own. Yesterday I concluded by saying, “I think we’re going to be all right regardless, because even fifty percent of Rebekah is equivalent to two-hundred percent of a normal person.”
It wasn’t a joke – I almost never tell jokes, I simply make observations – but it did turn out to be hilariously funny. I was reminded of how gratifying it is to stand in front of a room full of people (over 250 at the first service; a little more than 200 at the second) and to facilitate a little laughter and joy.
RADICAL MESSAGE: John (the other pastor at our church) preached another excellent message – this time talking about the pattern of radical reversal Christ’s coming set into motion, even before his birth. John concluded by grabbing his guitar and sharing a song about Mary. During his message, John threw several images of The Annunciation up on the screen, including one by the celebrated American painter, Henry Ossawa Tanner (below). I agree with John that Tanner’s interpretation is probably the most compelling, truthful, rendition I’ve seen.
The coming of Jesus radically upended Mary’s life. There was nothing expected, or routine, or comfortable about Christ’s coming, or his life, or his teaching, or his death, or what happened next.
All this begs the question for us, these last days approaching Christmas: “Are we going to let the coming of Jesus transform us in any way? Or will this Christmas just be “business as usual?”
Love, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Promise – DEREK