PEACE: THE ANGEL CANDLE
Light the Prophecy, Bethlehem and Shepherd Candles.
Luke 1:26-38 (NRSV)
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 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 ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 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 holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
We are now only a few days from Christmas Day! We have moved from the Prophets, to Bethlehem, to the Shepherds. Now, as we begin our time with the Angels, we encounter Gabriel. Gabriel is the angel who first visited Zechariah with the news that he and Elizabeth would bear a son. This son would make ready a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:17), John the Baptist. Today we read that Gabriel is the angel who also proclaimed to Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus; our Lord Jesus, for whom John would prepare the people!
Light the Angel Candle.
The Angel Candle is symbolic of the Presences of Peace we find in these biblical angel stories. Often an angel’s first words are, “Do not be afraid!” (We can easily imagine how someone would need to hear those words when encountering an angel!) Peace is so much more than a lack of fear, or an absence of conflict, or an inner calmness. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which means wholeness or well-being. This week, we will look for the deeper, inner peace that is demonstrated in our angel narratives, and how we may carry that peace within us, too.
In today’s passage, Mary is incredulous to learn that she will give birth to a son, Jesus. This news would be so much for an engaged young woman to absorb, especially in that time and culture! There would be so many uncertainties ahead. There would be much explaining to do. (Or not explaining- how could she?) We cannot begin to comprehend what she would face in the months and years ahead.
And yet, before the angel departs, she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Oh, such peace! Mary understands herself- her life- as a servant of the Lord. Placing herself solely for God’s purpose, she finds the peace in understanding that this is who she is called to be. No matter what lay ahead, she has the peace of obediently following God’s will, the peace of trusting that God will provide and empower her to do what God calls her to do. In placing herself fully in God’s providence, she has the peace of trusting surrender.
Let’s make this week an invitation to grow in our trust of God’s love, wisdom, and provision. Let’s learn new ways to be Presences of Peace for others.
PRESENCES OF PEACE
We pause before this candle, this lighted candle of Peace,
And we sense, we feel, we cherish your presence with us here.
Jesus, you are loved, you are treasured, you are dear.
In our gladness may we never cease
To make your peace be clear.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for Gabriel and all messengers of good news. As we enter into this Christmas week, may we be ever mindful of ways that we may serve as your Presences of Peace – with our families, friends and communities. Instill in us your deep abiding peace, the peace of experiencing the love of your Son, Jesus. Amen.