Friday, December 16, 2011

The Fourth Week of Advent: Can you hear the angels?

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary.

Painted by He QiThe angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord's servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38, NIV) (See also Genesis 1 & 2)

As I write these words, the world’s population has reached 7 billion. The last thing I want to do is to turn to the Bible and encounter ―the angel of fertility at work! But there he (or she) is, in the Advent-Christmas story and other places, impregnating barren women as a sign of hope. And so, I wonder if God is paying attention to the global population explosion of our day. Let’s turn to the beginning of the Biblical narrative (Genesis 1 and 2), where humanity was visited by ―the angel of sustainability. Can you hear what he (or she) says to us today?

Painted by James B. JanknegtI am the angel of sustainability…
I was there when the Lord God
made earth and sky,
giving you grounding and shelter.
I was there when the wild plants
appeared and the field crops grew,
giving you nature and nurture.
I was there when the streams
and rivers flowed,
giving you refreshment and irrigation.
I was there when you were charged with caring for creation
giving you a calling and an occupation.

What can we do?
  • Promote a “going green” campaign with your family, place of work, and church.
  • Raise awareness about the need to practice the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
  • Adopt a project that promotes learning about sustainable food, such as hosting a farmers market or partnering with neighbors for an organic garden.
More Information:

God of good news and inconvenient truths,
we admit that we have not cared for creation.
You asked us to multiply your good works,
but instead we have divided the human family
into haves and have-nots.
Our selfishness leads us to hoard goods,
while many of your children are homeless.
Our carelessness leads us to waste food,
while many of your children are hungry.
Our apathy leads us to close our eyes
while many of your children are sleepless.
Forgive us, Master Gardener,
and uproot from our lives
the weeds that drown out your image
and interfere with your intention.
As we till the soil and water the seeds,
may we discover that true happiness comes from caring.
As we gather the crops and harvest,
may we discover that lasting health comes from partaking.

Rev. Magdalena I. GarcĂ­a is Pastor of Ravenswood Presbyterian Church, in Chicago, where she has served since 2003. She is a graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1989). She has served as preacher, keynote speaker, and worship leader for national and regional church events. In 2008, she was honored for her “visionary work in transforming the church and society” as a recipient of the 2008 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Women of Faith Award. She is the author of the compendium Toward a Liberating Faith: Introduction to Mujerista Theology, published by the Women’s Ministries Program Area of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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