The Fourth Sunday of Advent, 2017
Elder Nancy G. Maxwell
“Don’t be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God. You’ll conceive and bear a son, and give him the name Jesus— ‘Deliverance’. His dignity will be great, and he will be called the Only Begotten of God. God will give Jesus the judgment seat of David, his ancestor, to rule over the house of Jacob forever, and his reign will never end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen, since I have never been with a man?”
The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you—hence the offspring to be born will be called the Holy One of God.”
Even in the shadow times of one’s life, one can gain important insights. It is in those times one follows the waning and the waxing of the moon—from the lack of light at a new moon, to the brightness of the full moon. In the passage from the lectionary for this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we have another image of light being dimmed— “The Holy Spirit will come upon you [from above] and the power of the Most High will overshadow you . . .” The Hebrew word for this “overshadowing” is similar to a cloud covering a light source. In this year of a total solar eclipse in parts of our world, this passage also might bring to mind the shadow of the moon completely blocking out the sun. In fact, it is hypothesized a solar eclipse occurred at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross. It may very well be that Jesus’ earthly life was “bookended” by two “overshadowings”—at his conception and at his death.
What insights can we gain from the “overshadowing” of the Most High? The shadows can be a place of deep spirituality. It is in the shadow times when we realize we are not in control, and where we can surrender our desire for control to the consistent and abiding love of the Most High. We can bear witness in the shadows to the miracles in our lives, even the miracle of the conception of Jesus. And it is only in the night that we, like the Magi, can follow our guiding star to fulfil a holy purpose.
May the long nights of this miraculous season bring you an intimate knowing of the empowerment from the Most High. Amen.