Luke 1:26-38 (New American Bible)
In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the [slave] of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
We are deep into the season known as Advent. For some it means nothing, for others it means presents and ornaments and family gatherings, for others still it is painful, full of sadness, remorse loneliness and fear.
Advent is supposed to be about HOPE – the hope of a coming Messiah promising liberation, the Hope of a new year, the hope of a life full of abundance and community.
For many hope is lacking; for others it is found in material things; for others still it is found in the still, small voice calling us deeper into divine love, deeper into ourselves, deeper into each other.
Few people talk about the underpinnings of this Advent Hope – that it is both dangerous and wild.
We can try all we want to tame this wild and dangerous Hope that comes during Christmas. We can tame it with pageants, public creche scenes, ‘Xmas’ parties and Black Friday, but nothing can take away the edge-like danger and hope revealed in the story of Advent – the birth of the Messiah (God in flesh pitching his tent among us) taking on the vulnerable stature of a newborn infant born to an unwed, teenage Hebrew virgin, and this under the duress of an occupying empire; and then add to that the Annunciation herald was that this newborn infant would be the Savior of the world. If that is not disturbingly dangerous and wildly hopeful, I don’t know what it.
The account of Mary and the ‘annunciation’ of Jesus by Luke the Physician reminds me of just how much we need Wild Hope right now! The Annunciation is all about the paradoxical power of God to bring such Hope into the dark times and dark recesses of our hearts and days. And God is all about Wild Hope!
It is Wild Hope because we are given the momentous news that Messiah is being born anew in the world, into our lives, and into our hearts – for he is the same yesterday, today and forever. And if you really ponder this, it is just insane: God longs to come into our lives and live in and through us! There is no rational explanation why God would dare enter such a profane vessel as myself, or you, none whatsoever aside from pure, unconditional Love.
And that truth is indeed Wild Hope.
This story of the birth of Jesus is also an example of one of the few times God shows bold rudeness (forgive my anthropomorphizing of God here) as well because as we remember and celebrate the birth of Messiah, we must also remember that God did not actually ask Mary’s permission to enter her! God did not ‘knock at the door’ and ask polite permission if he could come and turn her world upside down. Go did not wait for us to ask for permission so he could come into and alter the human world. Nope. God just did it. That is crazy love and wild hope.
I mean, if an angel of God came to me and said, “Niles, I am going to flip the world on its head through you, so have faith” and then up and disappeared leaving me to ponder such words. Well, you and the head shrinkers would have a field day with me – “he’s paranoid schizophrenic, or bipolar; quick, let’s put him on meds and get him stabilized stat!” Praise God that he did not decide to come to Blessed Mary in 2016, for she would surely be institutionalized, analyzed, medicated, and patronized – thrown away and forgotten about with all the other marginalized people living with chronic mental illness.
But no, God just sends an angel (that alone would freak me out) and says to Mary, “you are Blessed among women and I am going to use you to change the world and I am going to do it by coming into your very being, your holy Womb, and birthing the miracle of all miracles.” How utterly and unabashedly rude of God. God asked for no permission, no invitation sent weeks early via the mail with an RSVP envelope, no Evite, no Facebook updates, no Tweets. None. Well, how dare God? Just Who does this God think he is? What does Mary get: a divine message sent by a divine messenger to a teenager whose audacious response was “be it done to me according to Your will.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I know quite a few 14 year olds and they can’t even answers politely when asked to pick up their clothes, much less respond with such faith and grace when they are given earth-shattering and world changing truths.
Now that is Wild Hope, my friends!
God chooses a poor, unwed Hebrew teenage girl to bring about the greatest and wildest Hope the world has ever been given. How much lower can you go on the social class sphere? And the good news here is this Hope is still living and loving today, for this Wild Hope is not just a notion or an idea. No, this Hope is a resurrected person and his name is Jesus.
What is still mind-boggling, so utterly precocious, about this is the Wild Hope of God is still coming, interrupting our lives, giving his love to us and to a well-worn world still teetering on the edges and yet pregnant with desire.
The Wild Hope of God is still coming in bold compassion, coming into hearts and minds, disconcertingly flipping us and our world on its head. God’s Wild Hope is still rudely loving those we do not think are worthy of his love, forgiving those we do not think forgivable, showering messy grace and lavish mercy to those we would rather punish and ignore.
Yes, Wild Hope is still coming to us, without permission, planting wild dreams and desires in our hearts, asking us to trust the pregnant expectancy of Divine Visitation.
God’s Wild Hope is still blowing our minds first and foremost by saying “I am Emmanuel” (God is with us) and I love you more than life itself! Wild Hope is still coming, being born anew in the living mangers of our hearts, filling them with radical grace and love. The true Wild Hope – Jesus – is pouring out faith over fear, beckoning us to come and do something “Wild” for Him.