|Alpha and Omega stained glass window, circa 1883, near the front door of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin|
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. (Rev. 21:5-8)During the last week or so, and even before, but especially in the last week, I have been steeped in Advent, my favorite season of the church year, the time of anticipation and becoming. I can say honestly that I've had a good Advent. I love the readings from the Lectionary, which are wonderful, though they are, by no means, all sweetness and light.
|The Annunciation - Fra Angelico - Fresco|
So. Jesus' mother Mary was an unwed, pregnant, teenager, whose betrothed, Joseph, was inclined to dismiss her quietly, so as not to embarrass her. Still Mary would have been left as one of the despised, pregnant with no husband, until an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him God's plan was that he take Mary, the pregnant teenager, for his wife, though he was not the father of her child.
Before Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph had to journey to Bethlehem for a census, where they found no place to stay. When the time came for Jesus to be born, Mary gave birth in the only shelter available, a stable, with only the breath and nearness of animals to keep them warm.
How lowly a birth for the Son of God! Is there a message in the story of Jesus' humble birth? A few months after the the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she visited her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist at an advanced age. After meeting Elizabeth, Mary prayed the following prayer, the Magnificat, which I love, and which gives us a vision of the Kingdom of God.
My soul magnifies the Lord,Yes, there is a message in the Christmas story.
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation,Images from Wikimedia Commons.
that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a
mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.