As I write this, the rain pours down, quite literally in buckets, and Advent creeps around the corner, coming to light up a dark and dismal season.
This time of year, we return to the comforting, traditional gospel that accompanies us through Advent. Luke, a gentile physician (and colleague of the apostle Paul), tells a story rich in history, genealogy, full of angels and shepherds, and particularly, two women’s deepest hopes and dreams, not just for their own children, but for their nation.
As I read Luke’s first chapter, I think of mothers of this age, and their hopes and for their own unborn: Safe communities and schools, solid and just economies wherein their children can thrive. But it occurs to me that the more realistic dream is actually revealed in the prophecies of Luke’s Gospel. Both Elizabeth’s husband, the priest Zachariah, and her cousin Mary are visited by angels, delivering hope for the future of Israel.
Further, these visions of hope are tied to the fact that both these women are pregnant, and the children they carry are integral to this future. Elizabeth’s pregnancy is positively standard in the Old Testament tradition of God blessing a woman past childbearing age with a miracle pregnancy.
These women share a unique and powerful role in the future of Israel and, for that matter, the world. Their hopes are not for good schools, safe neighborhoods or better government. The angels are speaking for the God of Israel, and for God’s promise to raise up mighty prophets and leaders to inspire the hearts of their people. These aren’t great military or political leaders; they are powerful spiritual leaders who inspire people to lives of service
John the Baptist and Jesus were cousins. John inspired people to seek newness of life, in part through an Essene life that included the rite of baptism. He was also a prophet who foretold a new era of spiritual enlightenment through the life and teaching of another prophet who came to John to be baptized into his own ministry.
Jesus himself was understood, by John and by his own mother, Mary, to be the “son of the most high.” He was to establish a new era of peace and justice that was not engineered by political scientists or corporate leaders, but by everyday people, living out the truth in their hearts, in service to each other, in kindness and in sacrificial love, unafraid of the consequences.
And today, social media introduces us to remarkable people, young and old, living spiritual truths in their own lives: Standing up for mother Earth, for their diverse communities and for the integrity of their comrades who vary in color, culture and sexual identity.
We hear of young people forming their own prophetic communities based on shared ideals of equality, justice, peace and unconditional love. They are brash and unafraid. They simply tell their truth and do what needs to be done. Think of them as you read the first chapter of Luke.
The rain has stopped, but the winds howl with mighty force. Winds of change blow through our hometowns and through the hometowns of people we’ve never met. The prophets call us to new ways of seeing the world, of seeing each other. We have all heard the prophets; we have all lifted our prayers. So this is our season of waiting. And watching. The prince of peace is coming: Will we know Him when we
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