Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What Angels Say

The dark of night in Bethlehem.
He's born.
Mary and Joseph hold their newborn baby in those first hours, counting fingers and toes, watching those first hungry searchings, listening to those first snuffling coos. The first private moments of their parenthood. But not for long.

They have company.

Angels kept them company.
Angels. God's messengers. Whenever they show up, pay attention. God has something to say.

Mary and Joseph's ancient world was a mess just like ours. Herod ran rampant, already issuing orders for the murder of children to eradicate any possibility of a challenge to his authority. Men labored achingly all their lives. Women served them with no governmental or societal equality. Only half of children lived to adulthood. Poverty reigned. Few could read. Kings held whole continents under thrall. Many died young from diseases we easily arrest today. Ignorance and prejudice and greed bred war.

But the angels brought a message from God:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy King cometh unto thee...--Zechariah 9:9

Imagine them, in a barn--no, less than a barn--a cave, sharing space with animals. It was not a gentle setting. They had hay, and a manger, but no heat source, no convenient water, no facilities whatever. Just each other, the rudeness of animals, and faith in what they'd been promised.

It'd been a long time since the angel's first proclamation to Mary that she would bear a Son and that son would be Emmanuel, God with us.

She'd had nine months to think about this, to bear up under public derision, to witness Joseph's doubt, to watch Elizabeth bear her own miracle, to herself grow big and heavy and weary. To know, but to sometimes wonder.

We do it, too. We do not hear God's promise daily. It comes emphatically sometimes, when we cannot mistake it, but often it only whispers, a sigh we too often miss. But on some blessed mornings, in some dark stables, on some beds of pain and tears, it comes with announcement.

This is the promise, said the angel. This is your salvation. This is not only your son. He is Christ the Lord.

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