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Pure

Luke 1:26-38

The Rev. Jon Roberts

18 December

2011

Grace Episcopal Church

Monroe, LA

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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 father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” 35 And 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 called holy, the Son of God. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

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Annunciation, Paolo de Matteis, 1712

Keeping Watch, preparing the Way, sealed by a Holy Kiss have led us here.
Are we there, yet?
The Angel of the Lord
now swoops in,
this is for sure,
announcing good news of the Christ,
to those whose hearts are pure.[1]

Who will be sent?
Who will make the sacrifice?
Who will be worthy?

All these questions have been answered over these past three Sundays in Advent. All three answers come to us in the pageant of purity. As it says in our opening collect each and every Sunday, "Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee..." The road to purity, therefore, is to be traveled by the one who opens their hearts to Almighty God and to let him know your desires.

Children have checked their wish list this time of the year. They have certainly made known their petitions. Their hearts are open, expectant of good things to come shortly. It all hinges on the thoughts of their hearts that good things come from God and that he rewards those who have been good. They know that God sent His Son Jesus to deliver the world. They know that His Son sacrificed his life. They know that He is God and that He is worthy of devotion. Soon, soon, you will see them together tell the story once more. It's a preamble on the Eve of that Holy Night when the Christ child was born. Angels, portrayed as children will paint the scene. There will be a silent night. They will be round a manger. They will hearken, "O Come, all ye faithful." But today we share the nature of a child, one who is pure, always asking, "Are we there yet?"
There was a family who traveled this time of the year to St. Louis, MO, to be with their family over Christmas. They were traveling all the way from Louisiana. With adequate stops along the way, the children couldn't resist asking that same question, "Are we there, yet?" They tried to occupy their time with watching movies on their DVD players or they actually did that thing children used to do so long ago; they read books. Landmarks passed by their faces through the car window. When they arrived, they found their hotel and had some dinner. The next morning, mom and dad had a full itinerary. One of their stops was to visit the museum. There, they saw many marvelous works but the one that impressed them most is the painting of the Annunciation by Paulo Matteis.

In this vivid oil painting, they saw heaven and earth coming together. Gabriel is in a great cloud that begins to the fill the room where the Blessed Virgin Mary is found. She sits their patiently waiting for news. Surrounding Gabriel are about a dozen angels. They are personified as children and one mainly sees just their angelic faces perched on angel wings. They all look upon Mary with affection. Above is a dove with radiant light emanating below, as God's Holy Spirit floods the world. Gabriel swoops down. In his hand is a Lily, the sign of purity, and he is giving it to Mary. The father narrates the scene as Mary, at this time, is perplexed. This scene is pre-Magnificat. "How can this be", "I do not have a husband," he says. "I have not known a man in that way. How could I have a child?" That’s when one of his children intuitively says, "It’s because she is not there, yet."

The annunciation is a revelation of God's miraculous power to swoop into the world and deliver glad tidings. He is giving us reassurances along the way. During the season of Advent, if anything else, we are taught to persevere. In this, we are to learn to remain pure. We have four weeks in order to go back and forth in reflection about the mysterious works of God in our own lives. For the last couple of weeks, we kept watch, going back in time, hundreds of years before Christ in the days of Isaiah. We prepared the way, going ahead of the birth of Christ, into his adult years as we see John the Baptist crying in the wilderness.
Last week we received a rose, going back to the period after the annunciation when Mary lifts up her voice and sings. Now we precede that moment by a few minutes, seeing Gabriel deliver the news. Back and forth, we ask, "Are we there yet?" The answer in relation to our final destination, when we actually arrive at Christmas is, "No." You have not yet arrived. However, the power of Christ to transform your life, making himself known to you at this present moment, leading us day by day He is really present. In word and sacrament Christ is revealed to us. He extends the lily wanting you to remain pure. It's OK to ask where we are. We live in the "Now, but not-yet ness" of His eternal kingdom.

Until we arrive,
Keep Watch,
Prepare the Way,
Be sealed by a Holy Kiss.
The Angel of the Lord
now swoops in,
this is for sure,
announcing good news of the Christ,
to those whose hearts are pure.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] Luke 1:26-38

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