Excerpted from 2023 Advent Guide: A Season of Renewal, an Advent Guide for Lectionary Year B from the North Carolina Council of Churches.
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.
In the U.S., we are known for narrating and remembering history in a more palatable way than it actually happened. Thus, it’s no surprise that we do this with the Christmas narratives in scripture. We whitewash it and bundle it up into a children’s play. It would turn many of our churches upside down if we really noticed the scandalous and political implications of the story found in the Gospel of Luke.
The scripture read on Christmas Eve this year is the story of an angel appearing to a young, unwed woman of color. It’s the story about a girl named Mary, engaged to be married to Joseph. Or, more accurately stated, promised to Joseph in an arranged marriage by her family. After all, marriage described in the Bible in first-century Palestine is arranged marriage.
It’s a story of a pregnancy that came to be without the participation of a man. It’s a story about a God who chooses to enter our world in the flesh, choosing the body as a means to reveal God’s true nature to the world.
On this night when the veil is especially thin, when darkness settles as we hold our candle and sing “Silent Night,” and when the darkness holds the promise of the incarnation, we must be sure to tell THIS story from Luke and remind the world that God continues to proclaim justice.