I remember the moment so vividly. Away from home to attend a weekend-long retreat with more then-strangers than friends, surprises were coming at us left and right. We all felt a bit blindsided at times, but almost always in the best way.
Then there was the moment we were told that some people in our midst were not exactly who they seemed. There were "spies" among us, individuals throughout the group planted to help us navigate so many unexepected experiences. We were asked to identify the undercover agents, and that's when it happened.
A good friend, himself a first-time attender, looked at the group with genuine innocence and blurted out the question: "Is it me?" His honest, puzzled look was met with raucous laughter and a chorus of nos. We all understood it couldn't be him; he was the "new guy," not an insider posing as an outsider. Confused, relief immediately washed over his face, and my friend smiled -- congratulating himself on not being the "spy" in the midst.
I chuckle every time I recall this moment. And though sometimes this is one of those You had to be there! stories, today this is one of those I've been there stories.
Now ankle-deep into Advent, waiting, dreaming, hoping, praying, seeking... I hear the question coming from my own lips: "Is it me? Am I the one?"
This week, we've been talking about the angel of the Lord in the Christmas story, the one sent by God to deliver the Good News that the Messiah, the Savior of the people was finally coming. Truthfully, I've not paid enough attention to this individual in the story, though the angel appears individually at least 3 times to deliver a word about what's coming. I've concentrated way more on Mary, Joseph and the baby than I ever have on the angel.
It is, in fact, why God used an angel to share the news about Jesus that makes this story more important for me -- for all of us -- in this new Advent. To help understand the reason the angel means something, consider this history lesson:
Even though this long-expected Jesus was at one time eagerly anticipated by God's people, hundreds of years of waiting in what seemed to be a now deafening silence from the voice of God resulted in a people who'd become deaf to His promises. Some might say God turned the volume down and stopped speaking; others might argue Israel had cotton in their ears. Regardless, a storied history of leaders with strong connections to hearing voice of God -- Moses and Joshua, the judges, King David and the prophets -- wasn't enough to keep people listening and living in ways that honored God. By the time Jesus makes the scene, God's people have "made a scene" themselves -- turning the priesthood into a political campaign, demanding some war hero come and overthrow an oppressive government, continuing to live their version of God's rules with a few hundred of their own thrown in.
So maybe God sent an angel, because His people weren't listening to anyone else. Prophets' warnings fell on ignorant ears; their promises were covered under the dust of centuries of exile, rubble and war. But when God sent an angel, it wasn't to all the people. At least not in the beginning. Just a few.
Why? When we make announcements... really big ones... we make them big and loud and public. That's not how this went down. God sent word to a priest in the privacy of the Temple, sent word to a teenager in the privacy of her home (we assume), sent word to a fiance in a dream. Private. Obscure. Nearly unannounced. The most important announcement of all time came behind the scenes in a very personal way.
And that's when it struck me. As I was reading this 2000 year old story, I realized... God's still doing it that way. He is still giving the message of the Good News of Jesus in personal ways, an important message delivered via special messenger. The angel of the Lord in the story of Christmas shows US what our job is right now: WE ARE THE MESSENGERS. Don't believe me? Consider this: the word "angel" in Greek is angelos, which means messenger!
There's no doubt God is tapping His people on the shoulder one by one to share the message of the Gospel -- the grace gift of God come to us in Jesus. Paul explained it this way: "[A]nyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” (2 Cor 5:17-20, NLT). God made us His ambassadors -- His messengers of Good News -- to the rest of the world.
Cue the startling question: "Is it me?" We believe God sends messengers; we just can't wrap our head around the fact that it might be us! Yet He's made clear we're each called to represent Him by delivering a personal message of hope and peace and joy and love that will change lives: Jesus is coming again!
Yes, in my own way, I'm wrestling with the question. Not so much with whether I'm a messenger than with WHERE I'm supposed to deliver the message. But the best news is this: I don't have to know WHERE yet in order to know WHAT the answer to the question is! It is ME. It is YOU.
Will you take the challenge? Share the promises of God as a faithful messenger and then watch God work. This Advent there are just as many heartbroken, anxious, worried people looking for a Savior, a hero, someone to save the day. If you "Go Tell" this news, perhaps you'll be the way God intervenes and saves their day.
Jesus follower. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Friend. Pastor. Learner.