Each Advent we retell the story of the angel Gabriel’s visitations. Gabriel appears before Zechariah but when Zechariah hears Gabriel’s news, that Elizabeth will bear a child, he wants proof. Even with an angel standing right there in front of him, telling him this miraculous story, Zechariah can’t quite wrap his mind around it. Mary, on the other hand, visited by the same angel with similar news, receives it with curiosity. “But how?” she asks. She accepts the news with wonder.
You might have heard the following story from the Zen tradition
A student frustrated with life, with school, with her family, her boyfriend approaches her teacher for some guidance. The teacher responds with this story:
A Buddhist monk was walking through the mountains. Out of nowhere comes a hungry tiger. Chased by the tiger the monk comes to a cliff and grabs a vine hanging over the edge. He swings out, looks down and sees another tiger waiting below. Two mice begin to gnaw through his vine. He sees a strawberry growing from the cliff before him. He smiles. What a magnificent strawberry, he says to himself. He plucks it and drops it in his mouth. It is the sweetest, juiciest berry he's ever eaten.
The teacher paused as if the story had ended.
“That’s it?” said the student. “A monk is about to be eaten by a tiger and he reaches out and eats a strawberry. That’s it?”
The teacher continues, “The lesson is to know and embrace the experience of being alive. You must be alive every second when you are alive.”
The student replied with exasperation, “Well obviously…you are alive when you are alive.”
“Not always”, said the teacher. “It’s the experience of being alive in every moment, in every experience, both good and bad. We are to be alive in every moment we are alive and not simply exist and live out our days.”
The angel Gabriel comes before Zechariah and Mary with strawberries. Zechariah sees the strawberry but does not trust that it is real. He does not believe the possibility being offered to him. Mary, however, embraces it with wonder and is open to what will unfold.
During this season of Advent preparation, may we embrace each moment as Mary did with a sense of wonder, pondering and holding each moment close to our hearts.
 Pearmain, Elisa Davy, ed., Doorways to the Soul: Fifty-two Wisdom Tales from Around the World, Pilgrim Press, 1998; pg. 92