As of this morning, Mary’s off to Judaea to tell her cousin the Big News. You know, about being pregnant. I wonder whether she’ll mention the visit from the angel. Call me crazy, but I’m not convinced that young women in Palestine were casual about being visited by an angel, even back in the day.
And so then Gabriel was, like, . . .
I’m four days into my childhood home’s Advent calendar. I couldn’t have listed the Scripture bits in order, but it seems familiar. Something else seems familiar, too: They’re slow-rolling the story. That’s not surprising. It is, in one sense, a schedule-driven narrative.
In my work I was more familiar than I wanted to be with the exigencies of a schedule constraint: long hours and annoying-yet-essential compromises on product quality. (Annoying because essential? Maybe.) This is different: Concluding on Christmas Eve, they have exactly 24 slots/days to fill, so the story has to have that many elements even if you could tell it in fewer.
Although it’s self-imposed, there’s also a source constraint: They limited themselves to using Scripture quotes for each bit. There are no digressions into how Mary’s parents took the news of this grandchild, or whether she had morning sickness, or her excitement the first time she felt the baby move, or what other baby names she and Joseph considered, or which childhood friends or gaggles of aunts had a shower for her.
As of this morning, in this Advent season I have made the acquaintance of one delightful family baby just coming up on her one-year birthday, and received the news of another sure-to-be-delightful family baby on the way. It’s experience that can inform the reading of Scripture, even in these odd little extracts, if I let it. That can bring it to life, and that can bring it into my life. I have no choice about having to wait for the arrival of Christmas, but I can choose to sit with Mary as she waits for the arrival of her baby. I can choose to sit with women around the world who wait in circumstances both wildly different and not so different from Mary’s.
A baby! It’s Big News: It is now, it was then. It is the sort of news that busts out of any constraints we try to impose.