Advent 1: Fear, Favor, Forever

Advent is here and I feel some resistance to embarking on another season of waiting. We have all been waiting eight months for some shift in our pandemic reality. We have longed for the good news of a vaccine and we have waited for a decrease in the number of cases to deliver us from protocols that seem to create angst and anger rather than peace and hope. 

While reflecting the past few days, I realized that the visit between Mary and the angel Gabriel must have happened sometime in March, about the time we went into isolation to slow the spread of Coronavirus. 

Take a moment to read through Luke’s foretelling of Jesus’ birth:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”  Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.  And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.  ~Luke 1:26-38

Three words stand out for me. Fear and favor always come to the forefront, but today forever jumps off the page. Together these three words summarize a response to the psalmist’s question in Psalm 27:1.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; 

whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life; 

of whom shall I be afraid?

Because of her forever favor with God, Mary could be forever unfearful. What is your biggest fear today? In the midst of waiting for the end to the pandemic there are likely many, but our fears can be reminders of God’s forever favor to us. Moreover, the gift of waiting during Advent is the hope that comes from facing our fears and remembering our forever favor with God.

Wait for the Lord; 

be strong, and let your heart take courage; 

wait for the Lord!

~Psalm 27:1   

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