R. L. Stine, children’s author of the famed Goosebumps series once said that any good story has three parts: “a beginning, a middle, and the twist.” Even though Advent is the time where we tell the narratives around the beginnings of Jesus’ earthly life, there are also some twists! Such as in Luke’s foretelling of the births of cousins, John the Baptist and Jesus.
When Gabriel, the angel of God, caused both Zechariah (John’s father, a pious, religious leader in the local Temple who was getting up in age) and Mary (the young unmarried, teenager from a backwoods town) to respond initially with fear, I think we can all understand how this encounter could raise a few Goosebumps. The shepherds were frightened as well, and they were supposed to be “tough guys!” But the twist comes when the devout person we might expect to be sensitive to the movements of God becomes paralyzed by his fear. When Zechariah questions the angel’s claim that they would have a child, even though he and his wife, Elizabeth, had prayed for this possibility their whole lives, he is silenced from speaking until after the birth. No matter how much they prayed for this, I believe it’s fair to say that he didn’t really expect that such an intervention was possible.
On the other hand, the one whom we might expect to totally freak out, the young, unmarried girl who now is living in scandal responds with the logical question of how this is biologically possible, and upon hearing the mysterious answer of the Most High’s Overshadowing, she responds with obedience and is blessed: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
And there lies in the twist: God’s transforming intrusions into their human stories are met with disbelief from the religiously devout and with humble obedience from the girl of no influence, education or social position. Our world lifts up the elite and well heeled. God lifts up the lowly and meek. A twist as old as time.
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)