As I travel to give parish missions through the seasons of Advent and Lent I am constantly struck by the response to various Biblical texts. For while many have heard the lines that most famously ring out at this time of year such as “a virgin shall conceive and bear a son…” or “I am Gabriel, and I stand in the presence of God,” fewer and fewer Christians respond with a deep sense of familiarity.
What is the difference? Well, it is akin to recognizing that pieces belong to this puzzle rather than that one, without in the least understanding where they all fit. And if the pieces of Christmas (that is, those sacred lines, characters and scenes) are all a jumble in the minds of those who are expected to put the puzzle together for others, we are in a dire situation indeed.
So get the puzzle straight. Read the opening pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John with an eye to presenting the Good News. Pick up a book on the angels or on Mary that explains why it is so fascinating that they did and said what they did.
(I wrote a book on the angels in Sacred Scripture that you might find useful. It is called Angels Among Us and you can find it here.)
Enter into the Advent season with the resolution that this year you will not just recognize the words of God but you will understand them. Consider it your Christmas reading list; and with Advent just around the corner, I would say it is time to get started.
in Christ, patrick