During Elizabeth's sixth month of pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin. She was engaged to marry a man named Joseph from the family of David. Her name was Mary. The angel came to her and said, "Greetings! The Lord has blessed you and is with you."
But Mary was very startled by what the angel said and wondered what this greeting might mean.
The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has shown you his grace. Listen! You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of King David, his ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will never end."
Mary said to the angel, "How will this happen since I am a virgin?"
The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God.
Now Elizabeth, your relative, is also pregnant with a son though she is very old. Everyone thought she could not have a baby, but she has been pregnant for six months. God can do anything!"
Mary said, "I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!" Then the angel went away.
The value of children and young people is throughout scripture, as present as admonitions to honor and respect one's elders. The Bible is perhaps one of the most historic inter-generational texts we have, unique in its time, ahead of it, perhaps by millennia. My youth have heard me say many times that they are not the future. They are the present. And so must our commitment to them be present too. We show that commitment in giving them positions of leadership and training them, but also by showing up to be with them, even when they fuss and complain and want their independence from us.
Teenagers are learning how to become independent and they often express a wish to be apart from adults. And often, we as parents are all too content to let them have their own space. Mark Yaconneli writes and speaks about how youth remind us of our struggles at their age, our questions, our mistakes. They crash through boundaries and discuss topics that make us uncomfortable. It's hard to be around our own kids in the teen years, much less ones that aren't ours. But that's what heroes of the faith do. I've had many heroes over the years in my faith journey. But none so much as the ones who show up week after week for the often thankless, sometimes discouraging, under appreciated task of being with young people, sacrificing time and rest and their own activities to be with them.
When I think about the young parents God chose for his only son as we approach advent, I think about the young people they were, Mary probably a teenager herself. They needed godly people and couples so they could navigate the biggest responsibility in history. They needed role models so that when Jesus was a teenager, of which we only get one story - a challenging one where he gets left behind exercising his independence, they were ready to be there and help him grow in "wisdom and stature." I wonder who will be with our teens to help them do the same on Sunday nights and trips. As each group of kids graduates, a new set of parents and caring adults from JCPC will need to join us. This Advent, consider your own calling to be with young people for a season. And if an angel or a teenager or a pastor appears and tells you the Lord needs you, respond like the trembling and scared teenager Mary... "I am the servant of the Lord. Let this happen to me as you say!"