This type of announcement is expected, common, borderline mundane if you are familiar with airline travel. For a vast number of reasons, gates get changed, we are not typically told why on the ground, but we are basically told, Move! You are in the wrong spot. Your expected guest is arriving somewhere different than where you thought. This sort of announcement at the airport is strictly informational and not meant to startle or surprise or incite a riot or change the world. It simply tells family and friends that there expected travelers will be showing up at a particular time and particular location and it has changed. Go over there and they will meet you at the end of the hallway. Stay here and you are going to miss them.
Sort of like Jesus? You know the whole world was waiting for Jesus. At least the whole world that we study in Scripture. That whole world in scripture is Isreal and they were waiting for the Messiah. Waiting for a gate change. I imagine they were waiting for someone like David, or someone from a past war. Maybe a prophet like Elijah or Elisha. Maybe they were waiting for Moses.
A baby? Not a baby. In Bethlehem? Not in Bethlehem. In a Virgin's Womb? Beyond imaginable. Way beyond a simple gate change.
As the Tobacco Trail Church prepares to celebrate Christmas, we might start with this announcement over the loudspeaker at the airport:
The angel Gabriel has the mic, and says to Mary (I guess she represents the friends and family who wait at the wrong gate), Do not fear, Mary, you shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name Jesus. Great will be his dignity and he will be called Son of the Most High... Lk. 1
There were others at Gate 30, moving toward Gate 33. You and I, we are like shepherds, bumbling down a path, traveling from Gate 30 to Gate 33 in hopes that we will see him.
I'm not so sure the world sees Jesus very clearly these days. What he came for. How he came to declare peace among the nations. How he came to disarm rather than to mobilize. He did come to inspire our work and our rest and our families and our calls. He did come so that we might praise him and his father through his spirit. And when I say the world doesn't see him very clearly, that's not some other guy or gal I'm referring to, that's me, a Shepherd in this story. That's you, one of the Maji. That's your cousin, who plays Joseph in the play. That's some person from high school who wronged you, you think she is your enemy, but she's really just one of the angels making a difficult announcement. Telling the world something difficult to chew on. It will be a baby. It will show up in a nowhere nothing place like Bethlehem. The baby grew in Mary's womb. Who's Mary? We say. Right, nobody you've ever heard of.
We think we've figured out who everybody is in any story, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let's be honest, I or you are the good guy. The other guy is Herod. No the other guy is just the innkeeper, trying to take care of his family. He didn't know he was denying the savior of the world a warm bed.
I want to see Jesus more clearly. I want to be more generous with my neighbors. I want to do these things this December thanks to this particular announcement, that He's coming and will be called Son of the Most High. I want to find him along a long and winding road to Bethlehem and at the end of it. I want to see him in a manger along with others stars in the creation drama, the creation musical. Those stars, seen by you and me, the intruding paparazzi, trying to catch a glimpse and a fame-filled photo that we can hold onto and share with others, those stars will be lowing cattle, and sheep, always sheep, maybe a donkey, three camels with kings who come to lie down, bow down, before the King.
I want to start with a walk today and begin to imagine seeing all these things. Accepting the announcement, waiting for the traveler, and then living with the truth. Let's take a walk.
*reflection before an Advent Walk on the American Tobacco Trail, December 3, 2017, the first Sunday in Advent.