Written for Advent Worship with the UCC in Wallace, Idaho
Mary has taken her place in the creche alongside Joseph and the shepherds. Not to sound too critical, but this set has her looking about as meek and mild as every other set I’ve ever seen. My experience of visiting new mothers has taught me that moments after childbirth is not the preferred time for a photo op, especially not a photo that will get global and eternal circulation. But add to that the grueling journey to Bethlehem, getting stuck in the barn with a feeding trough as a bed for her newborn and stinky old field hands as their first visitors. I don’t know of any 13 or 14 year old girl who would endure all of that and come through looking meek and mild. Your imagination can color in how she’s more likely to look and just what she might be about to say.
I’ve cherished Mary for a very long time; her willingness and ability to open her life so completely to God has impressed me deeply. Her words, here am I, the servant of the Lord, have been a kind of mantra for me. But I admit that open door, unconditional invitation isn’t quite as appealing as it once was. As I age, I’m becoming less eager to have my life disrupted, to say nothing of turned upside down and inside out. Don’t get me wrong: I’m still up for a lot of adventure, maybe even risk, but preferably on my terms and of my choosing. But Y’all come in now and do whatever you think best, let me help in whatever way I can, well, I need to work some more on that one.
What do you think happened in Mary between her initial question to Gabriel of, how can this be? to her response not long after, when she said, count me in, for nothing will be impossible for God? Her pregnancy as an unwed teenager, especially in a small village where everybody knew everything, put her life at risk. By the time she got to Elizabeth’s door she was singing a song, the Magnificat, about her understanding of what God was up to, it’s words so powerful that it’s been banned in countless places in modern history. Like Argentina: when the mothers of the disappeared plastered the city plaza with the Magnificat’s vision of hope, the ruling junta declared it was too dangerous a thing for public consumption. And when the British ruled India, they didn’t even want it sung in churches. I don’t know who she was before Gabriel visited her, but I know once she said yes to God, there was no stopping her. She was on fire with her love for God and her passion for God’s people. How much of that love am I prepared to let into my life? How ready are we to deliver it into God’s world?