“How can this be?” 2nd Advent 12/07/2014 by Rev. Stacy Swain (Click on title for audio)

Luke 1: 26-55


Can you imagine what that must have been like when there is Mary going about her business and suddenly and angel of the Lord turns her world upside down?


I imagine, that day began just like any other. Mary going about what she knew so well.

And then there is a knock at the door and in a flash of light and heat, an angel speaks words that changes her life forever. How could she ever have imagined, yet alone prepared for such a moment as that?


You know, we spend a huge amount of time and energy doing all we can to be sure that such a moment never happens to us, that we never get caught off guard like that. We spend a huge amount of time and energy planning and preparing so that we know exactly what is coming next and then what comes after that. I don’t know about you but once of the very first things I do in the morning is to check my calendar, looking out over the carefully laid out day, so that I will know exactly what is coming and so that I can be well prepared for it.

And preparation for me and maybe you too means not only making a plan for how we want things to be, but it also means trying to anticipate all that could possibly go wrong and making a plan for that too. Good preparation means being in control and not being caught off guard come what may.

And all of this is really comforting. It is comforting to feel like we have a handle on our lives, that we are in control. And it is gratifying to see how smoothly things unfold when we are well prepared.

We are in the season of Advent and we understand that to be the season when we are prepare ourselves to receive again the gift of God with us that is and is coming into the world. And so we plan and make ready. We do what we know how to do. We get the decorations out of the attic, and do what we have done year after year. The advent calendar goes on the hook by the door. The crèche scenes go on the shelves in the living room. White lights out front, colored lights for the tree. We’ve got this. We know what it looks like to be prepared.

But, we also know that there comes times when despite our best laid plans something will happen that we could never have imagined let alone prepared for. Like Mary, there are times when each and every one of us at some point in our lives, despite our best laid plans and most exact preparations are called into that which we cannot imagine and feel completely unprepared for. Be that facing racism with in us and our land; the Israeli/Palestinian conflict; Ebola epidemic; the Typhon bearing down once again on the Philippines; a precious child born before his time; a diagnoses we never imagined; or the death of someone dear.

For me that time came recently when I received the news of my step-sisters suicide. As the plane began its decent into the Seattle airport, I felt so afraid. I did not know what I was going to do and felt so unprepared. I did not know how to handle the heart ache and deep sadness and all the chaos that was churning in the wake of my step sister’s death. This was new for me. I am used to feeling competent and prepared and having a plan, but in that moment I had nothing.

But the good news of the Gospel today comes in the words of that Angel “ do not be afraid!” this is the hope of the season. We need not be afraid when faced with what we could not have imagined let alone prepared for. And what is truly remarkable about this story from scripture today is that Mary is not afraid. She does not fear the words the angel speaks. She does not run. She does not deny. She does not protest that she cannot or will not. Instead she considers, ponders, questions and then accepts. She engages the moment and then steps into it. Turns out that she is completely prepared for the unimaginable. How? Because she is prepared to let God into the moment and with God all things are possible.

But the good news continues for it is not just up to Mary alone either is it? She may have said “yes” to the moment but it is not until she visits her cousin Elizabeth and hears Elizabeth’s affirmation that song bursts forth from Mary. It is in the embrace of loving arms that that “yes” is made complete.


And in my place of vulnerability the good news of this passage, came home to me in a very palpable way. As I stepped off the plane I found myself stepping into God’s care and the great communion of love that will hold and support and guide and sustain. We can say yes to the difficult moments of our lives because of the truth that this Advent season affirms. And that is that if we are prepared to let God into whatever it is we face, then we are prepared for anything. For with God all things are possible.

Like Mary can move through fear to trust, we can step into vulnerability knowing that God will meet us and that we will have each other to affirm and support and illuminate the way. And like Mary we may discover that even in those moments for which we feel most unprepared, there is new life stirring, new possibilities opening, a new future dawning in ways we cannot even imagine! Let it be for us as well this day and every day,