“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man named 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.’” (Luke 1:26-28, NRSVue)
We never talk much about Gabriel in telling Jesus’s Nativity story. Although Gabriel plays a significant role, he’s a messenger of an even greater message, so once he shows up with his big announcement, we move on to other parts of the story. We focus on Mary and how she might have processed the news. The late Presbyterian preacher and educator Frederick Buechner keeps his focus on Gabriel and how he might have processed his encounter with Mary:
“She struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but [God had entrusted him] with a message to give her, and he gave it.
“He told her what the child was to be named, who he was to be, and something about the mystery coming upon her. ‘You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,’ he said.
“As he said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings, he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer of a girl.” –Frederick Buechner in Peculiar Treasures
Despite Buechner’s portrayal of Gabriel’s doubts about Mary’s readiness to bear God’s Son, I want to focus on five words that Gabriel shared with Mary that make all the difference in his message to her. He said, “The Lord is with you.” Those words are game-changing for Mary and for us, too. If God is with us, we have everything we need to fulfill God’s call in our lives.
“The Lord is with you” is also the larger message of Christmas. In other scriptures, we discover that another name for Jesus is “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.” For centuries, the Hebrew people tried to find their way to God. In Jesus, God makes his way toward his people. We can see him whenever we search for him because, in Jesus, he’s always nearby. He’s always willing to come alongside us and provide what we need to fulfill his call upon our lives. This reality is the good news of the Good News. Jesus IS Good News because he is God and comes to live among us. He is with us!
If you have friends who need a dose of Good News, please invite them to share with us this Sunday at 8:15, 9:00, and 11:00 a.m., or join us for our Candlelight Communion Service at 5:30 p.m. You can always trust that we’ll share a positive message of God’s love for you and all whenever we gather in worship. That’s a message we all need to hear! See you on Sunday!