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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Creeds: It’s Almost Advent

We are so bad at waiting.  And by we, I mean me… but I also mean you.

So, it’s almost Advent.  Every time the liturgical season changes, I find myself saying, “This season is my favorite time of year!”

I say it about Lent and Christmas and Easter and even Ordinary Time.  Advent is no exception, and I’m laughing at myself just a little bit, because even though I claim to be a realist in theory and sometimes measure up closer to a pessimist in practice; as it turns out, I really do love the whole year!  I’m thankful for the changing of liturgical seasons to remind me of this. 

Today, I’ve been working on a sermon for November 26th, the Sunday before Advent begins.  My local church has opted to extend the Advent season a bit in order to utilize a very beautiful art series, which requires a couple of extra weeks.  It seems we’re not waiting for the waiting!  Ironic.  With this in mind, it made sense for me to move on to the next phrases in the creeds, fully submersed in my own thoughts about how the conception of Christ came to be. 

The Apostles Creed:

“Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,”

The Nicene Creed:

“For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.”

Conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, God incarnate, born to a virgin.   

Stop for a minute and think about that.  I mean, really think about it.  Don’t just skim over it, because that’s the temptation for a story so familiar.  This is unbelievable stuff!

Mary is totally perplexed and presumably terrified (the angel says, “Don’t be afraid”), and can we really blame her?  Yet I’m always amazed that she doesn’t say, “No.”

I want to be exceedingly clear that I think she could have.  Who are we to know if others did?  We have Mary’s narrative, because instead of running from what must have, undoubtedly, been the craziest thing she had ever experienced in her short life; she asked a question that seems to seal the deal.  “How can this be?”

Some translations go on to tell of the lack of impossibility with God, and I like those words.  They’re good words.  But there’s something particularly endearing about the NIV when the words are interpreted, instead, “No word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

Sometimes I’m not sure we can wrap our minds around impossible things, but I feel fairly confident that we can embrace the tension between failure and success, knowing full well that neither tends to look like anything we ever could have expected.

The word… or perhaps, the Word (Jesus) will not fail.

And with that, Mary offers consent.  “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38, NRSV), and the rest is history… and theology… and salvation… as God and humanity work together to birth redemption into the world.  (But not yet…  pause in the time of waiting that is quickly approaching to remember what it is to anticipate…)

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