category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 22

Sunday,  December 20

2 Samuel 7:1–11, 16; Romans 16:25–27; Luke 1:26–38

“When the angel came to her, he said, ‘Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!’ She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:28-29 Common English Bible).

Angels play many roles throughout Scripture. They announce and they instruct; they guide and they protect. As announcers, divine angels deliver urgent news, or tidings, just as human messengers do. Naturally, the ones visited are eager to know whether the angel bears good news or bad news.

All the while, fear is the typical response to an angel’s visit. According to Luke 1:12, Zacharias was gripped with fear when an angel appeared to him, and we all know that the shepherds were “sore afraid” when an angel appeared to them in the field at night (Luke 2:9 KJV).

Mary was afraid too when Gabriel appeared to her. While the Common English Bible says that she was “confused,” many other translations say that she was “troubled.” Be that as it may, the next thing that Gabriel says to Mary according to Luke 1:30 is, “Fear not!” It seems fair to suggest then that at least Gabriel’s appearance prompts Mary’s fear, even as his words prompt her confusion. I wonder if her fear has to do with not knowing “what kind of greeting this might be.”

We don’t receive urgent messages often. Most news can wait a while. For example, only once has a colleague at Gardner–Webb University appeared at the door of my classroom with urgent news while class was in progress. “This has to be something big,” I thought. It was, and as the face of the messenger suggested, it was bad news.

Even with the possibility of good news, we are prone to expect bad news, aren’t we? We are prone to be afraid when a messenger shows up at our door. When we’re called out of class because, the messenger says, “The principal wants to see you,” we assume that we are in big trouble. A call from the doctor is sure to be bad news, right? I know that if an angel paid me a visit, I would assume that my time on earth was up.

Yet, we long for good news, and for God to interrupt our routines with its urgent announcement. May the urgent and good news of Christ be real for you this Advent and Christmas season. May we expect it and receive it. Amen.

Cal Robertson
Professor of Biblical Studies

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Advent Reflection: Day 23

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Advent Reflection: Day 21

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