‘But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.’ Luke 1:29
And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. Luke 1:65-66
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. Luke 2:9
Luke’s narrative fills with fear. The angels appear and speak; fear follows. It’s easy to distance ourselves from that fear. Of course, we might think, to encounter angels would cause fear. Of course the proclamations made would be troubling.
And yet…how often do I feel that fear? How often at advent am I troubled? How often might I have Elizabeth’s reaction upon Mary’s coming: “And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”
Intellectually, I know the Incarnation is of Emmanuel, coming close to His people, His ever unworthy people. But affectively…how often do I tremble with the shepherds, perhaps not just at the heavenly host but at what they proclaimed-that the long-awaited Messiah was here, among them, close by, a baby. How often am I troubled that heaven has broken through, the veil torn back, God Himself made flesh to dwell among us?
We know what happened then-Mary sang the Magnificat; Zechariah sang; Simeon sang; Anna prophesied. The shepherds went as prophets to their people. The wise men departed by another way, carrying the good news back to a people far off.
How often do I tremble to hymn with joy, fearful of the awful majesty of God dwelling with the awful squalor of man to redeem us with Him in awful glory?
Perhaps in Advent, and it as herald of all the year, I need more fear and trembling; I need to be more troubled. That I might receive with more wonder and joy.
O God, grant more of a sense of Your wonder; make my heart trembling hymn. For only in fear may your calm come; only in trembling your peace; only in poverty your abundance; only in abjection your joy. Prepare my heart as you prepared Your people that I might rejoice as they, a heart waiting finally satisfied and wondering to find itself so. All this alone in Jesus, who came as a babe to live and die as a man to save His people from their sins. In and through Him in the glory of You, Father, and the Holy Spirit, world without end, unto ages of ages. Amen.