In the Children’s Play “Just a little Christmas” shared by the Sunday School this morning, Mary and Joseph both respond to the news God has chosen them to parent the Son of God with the exclamation, “Oh, OK!”
The simplicity of that response pushed me to think about what it was that made them SEE and accept this “never experienced before” reality. To consider how they were able to perceive past their personal circumstances to embrace and act on God’s call on their lives with enthusiasm.
Mary’s song in this morning’s scripture reading is more than the play’s “Oh, OK!” response but in essence, it reflects Mary’s consideration of the message she received in light of how it impacts the bigger picture, and that thought process leads her to an “Oh” moment, and then a “Ok” response, almost a, “I get it Lord, I’m with you on this all the way.”
Her response indicates she had a deep relationship with God, as well as an understanding of God’s promises through the prophets. She doesn’t raise any questions about her son’s being the Son of God, only lifts a question relative to the technicalities of how.
We know from these verses in Luke, that her relative Elizabeth and her husband Zechariah were faithful to God. Luke tells us that both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. Even with that knowledge and understanding, Zachariah questions the angel who appears to him in the temple about how he and his barren wife could possibly become parents. As a result he is unable to speak until after John’s birth. Elizabeth acknowledges with gratitude God’s gift to her, which is her son.
With knowledge of that family dynamic and the words of the angel to Mary, “you have found favor with God,” as well as Mary’s haste to go share the message she received with Elizabeth, we have evidence this was an extended family with deep faith which was reflected in the way they lived every aspect of their lives.
Elizabeth and Mary knew a Messiah was to come. With an angel telling them of the sons they would bare and the ministry those sons would have, it was clear that the birth of salvation was in sight. The joy they express as they come into one another’s presence is more than the joy of two women who by all standards of the day should not be expecting babies, it is the joy of hope, possibility, and real change in their world.
They are expecting their sons, with God’s direction, to end the Roman rule which threatened their farms and livelihood, which determined who received food and how much. They were hopeful that the birth of their sons would end the threats to the Temple which came as Herod allowed the Greek culture to mix with Jewish tradition, negatively impacting their faith. They were filled with joy that their sons would restore power to those who followed God and rid them of Herod, one of the most wicked rulers a people could have.
Age, a seemingly impossible pregnancy, social expectation and position, all provided many reasons to question the angel’s proclamation, to give into fear instead of into God vision. But Mary sees beyond the problems and focuses on trusting the promise:
“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
She was watching for all the places God was visible in her life, where it reflected God and the power of salvation. She recognized with humility that she needed God and that it was through God’s work in her life that generations would come to called her blessed.
Her song shares a message of a God who is merciful, strong, aware of the thoughts and focus of all whom he created, one who is Holy and who does great things.
Her song reminds us that power does not come from earthly thrones but in lifting up those dismissed by our world, those who are hungry and those in need of forgiveness and kindness.
Her faith is in her Saving God who is faithful to the promises made throughout the generations.
She SEES because she has prepared to see God, she looks for God, she hangs out with people looking for God, she recognizes God’s directions and paths which are Holy. We know that she will need that preparation to help her navigate throughout her life, as she discovers God keeps promises, but not always in the ways she envisioned they would be kept.
Her son does save His people, but not by overthrowing an earthly government in one particular time in history. His saving work continuing to transform lives throughout the ages.
Like Mary we can SEE God’s path for us when we prepare: When our hearts and minds are immersed in God’s Word and in sharing our experiences with others also living faithfully. When we are willing to look for God in every area of our lives; when we humble ourselves in recognition that we often need to seek forgiveness; when we let go of how we think things should go, marvel at how God is working, and join God in the work.
Throughout this passage we hear of the Holy Spirit’s presence – in Elizabeth, in John even before he is born, with Mary – The Spirit enabling their understanding, giving them strength, opening their eyes to God’s call on their lives
The Holy Spirit is available to open our understanding, to give us vision as well.
As we WATCH and TURN this Advent season, we have the model of Mary helping us to discover how to SEE power, people, plans, and paths with God’s perspective and peace. We have the joy of promises kept, justice rendered, wholeness experienced, and residency in God’s kingdom. When we live fully with that JOY, our lives witnessing to its power, others will come to SEE Emmanuel, God with us, through us.