"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary," and that is the beginning of a story – a time, a place, a set of characters, and the implied promise, which is common to all stories, that something is coming, something interesting or significant or exciting is about to happen. And I would like to start out by reminding you that this is what Christianity is. If we whittle away long enough, it is a story that we come to at last. And if we take even the fanciest and most metaphysical kind of theologian or preacher and keep on questioning him far enough – Why is this so? All right, but why is thatso? Yes, but how do we know that it's so? – even he is forced finally to take off his spectacles and push his books off to one side and say, "Once upon a time there was...," and then everybody leans forward a little and starts to listen.
We want to know what is coming next. There was a young woman named Mary, and an agnel came to her from God, and what did he say? And what did she say? And then how did it all turn out in the end?
The story Christianity tells is one that can be so siimply told that we can get the whole thing really on a very small Christmas card or into two crossed pieces of wood. Yet in another sense it is so vast and complex that the whole Bible can only hint at it, a story beyond time altogether.
Yet it is also in time, the story of the love between God and man. There is a time when it begins, and therefore there is a time before it begins, when it is coming but not yet here, and this is the time Mary was in when Gabriel came to her. It is Advent: the time just before the adventure begins, when everybody is leaning forward to hear what will happen even though they already know what will happen and what will not happen, when they listen hard for meaning, their meaning, and begin to hear, only faintly at first, the beating of unseen wings.
from The Magnificent Defeat
by Frederick Buechner