Luke 1:39-56; Angel visits Mary.
“Living in the presence of Angels.” That was the title for my talk at a special childrens’ Christmas pageant service. The minister of the church was not happy. He told me that title won’t do as we focus on Jesus not angels!
In fact, he said “I’ve removed the angels from the pageant and we just have the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and Wise Men. Now, no angels please Ross!
I explained this service was seeking to reach family and friends of the children, many of whom had no contact with the church. I stressed Angels are a wonderful entry point as most people believe in angels and connect them to the biblical narrative. He eventually agreed and at the pageant he began with an apology for removing the angels!
I shared in the service that Angels are close to children. As we face the horrendous failures of the church, and others with respect to child sex abuse, the word of God declares there will be harsh judgement on such sin. The angels are a child’s advocate and eternal friend (Matthew 18:10).
“Unexpected beauty” is often found in spiritual places we have closed our eyes to. Oh we are too sophisticated for that, perhaps we are just too busy to stop and see.
I love this passage. Imagine if Mary had her eyes and mind closed. No angels for me! She would not have heard of God’s call on her life. She would have found herself pregnant with the Son of God without the hidden resources for the journey.
She would have missed hearing about God’s plan for her son and the world - “his Kingdom will never end”. However, this young woman was “favoured” for she lived with her eyes open to God’s unexpected beauty.
Unexpected beauty is for me found in unexpected “angel” encounters. The conversation with a stranger on the bus, listening to the story of the person selling you a copy of “Big Issue”, sharing openly with someone with different ethical opinions. And perhaps a “real” angel encounter! I do have angel stories, do you?
Another unexpected beauty is the Holy Spirit. The promise to Mary was that the Spirit would overshadow and empower her. Servanthood living is Spirit dependant – living in the presence of the Risen Jesus. The text reminds us that with the Spirit, “nothing is impossible with God”.
At advent, I often turn back to the Dothan story (2 Kings chapter 6 verses 9-23). The prophet Elisha, is surrounded by the enemy soldiers. In the morning Elisha’s servant came out of his tent, saw the enemy and cried out “Oh my Lord, what shall we do?” Oh unexpected beauty!
The Prophet prayed “Lord open his eyes so he may see”. Then the Lord opened his eyes and he saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire – God’s angelic forces. They were protected by the hand and majesty of God.
This advent will I be like Elisha or his servant? For me as I live in our rational, hectic paced world, it’s a constant question. Am I closed or open to God’s supernatural unexpected beauty – angels and the Holy Spirit? Do I take my steps expecting such beauty, such encounters? I personally need to have the eyes of Elisha.
This advent we are surrounded by the forces of injustice, cruelty, abuse and violence. With eyes open, nothing is impossible.
Rev Dr Ross Clifford AM is the Principal of Morling College (NSW Baptist) and author of numerous books many of which focus on Christian Apologetics. He is a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance, President of the Asian Baptist Association, an acclaimed international preacher and speaker, a columnist in many Christian publications, winner of many national and international awards and for many years the Sunday evening Sydney Radio 2CH host. Ross is married to Bev, father and grand father.