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Celebrating Advent: Week 4

Brandon Booth
Brandon Booth
December 21, 2021

This week’s hymn is “The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came.” Both the english text and the tune are from an 18th century Basque carol, but the words are inspired by an even earlier 13th or 14th century Latin song, Angelus Ad Virginem.

I don’t really know which Advent hymn is my favorite. But I do know I really really love this one! The annunciation is so full of mystery and paradox! 

Imagine the scene with me:

The angel Gabriel from heaven came,
With wings as drifted snow, with eyes as flame:
"All hail to thee, O lowly maiden Mary,
Most highly favored lady." Gloria!

"For now a blessed mother thou shalt be,
All generations laud and honor thee;
Thy son shall be Emmanuel, by seers foretold,
Most highly favored lady." Gloria!

In my imagination I see the paradoxical scene. Gabriel—beautiful and fearsome—kneels before humble little Mary. His wings are tucked respectfully behind his back, his eyes aflame with excitement. What honor has been given to him! He was chosen to deliver the first glad tidings of great joy. 

And what a contrast he is to Mary. To us she is plain; simple. But Gabriel can see the spiritual realm. He can see truth. To him Mary appears glorious. She shines more brightly than he does himself; more brightly than the Archangel Michael even. She will be the mother of God. Her arms will comfort and her breasts will nurse God. She will kiss his skinned knees and hang his finger paintings on her fridge.

And how does Mary respond to this impossible revelation?  

Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head;
"To me be as it pleaseth God," she said.
"My soul shall laud and magnify God's holy name."
Most highly favored lady, Gloria!

Of her, Emmanuel, the Christ, was born
In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn,
And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say:
“"Most highly favored lady." Gloria!

I cannot fathom having Mary’s faith. I want her faith! I want to say, “Yes, Lord, do with me exactly as you desire.” Oh Christian, attend! Aspire to be like Mary and receive everything from God as his good will for you! 

May you know the presence, and the power, and the glory of Emmanuel today and throughout all the coming weeks of Advent and Christmas!

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