This last Sunday in advent is Mary's Sunday. Our gospel this morning finds two
unlikely, expectant mothers, meeting in an out-of-the-way town in Judea.
Elizabeth, getting on in years, had probably given up hope that she would ever bear a
child. In her age, here she is, about to bear a son.
And Mary, young, betrothed but not wed. Not exactly a picture of every girls dream
of the way to spend the months before one's wedding.
But here they are, these two unlikely expectant mothers. Meeting in a small town in
the hill country of Judea, singing their praises and joys to God.
I think many of us would just as soon miss this brief meeting. I mean, we're in Luke
after all. We can turn the page and smell the shepherds, and see the Bethlehem hill
sides, hear the angels and bask in the radiance of the star. Christmas is almost
here, we're almost ready with presents, and wrapping, and cooking and baking, and
plans, and whatever else needs to be done: why stop now? We're so close to the
Nativity story that is SO familiar... Tell the truth--when you noticed that the Gospel
lesson was from Luke this morning--didn't you really want it to be Luke 2... In
those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
This was the first taxation and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria...
You probably memorized those lines somewhere along the line... "In that region
there were shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night..."
But no, this morning, we've got two pregnant women. And they're singing. Elizabeth
is not only thrilled that she is pregnant, but also that Mary has come to see her.
You see, her own child has leapt for joy at Mary's coming. Mary is singing for joy
for the Works of God--that God is merciful from generation to generation, that God
upturns the status quo.
Have you ever wondered: did the author of Luke write a Mary that is just a little
too compliant? I mean, this young girl, pregnant out of wedlock? Is Mary really meek
and passive, rolling with the divine wind that has turned her world upside down? Has
the writer of Luke really written a Mary who doesn't understand the physical and
emotional toll it would bring to bear--How else could he so blithely put these songs
of joy in her mouth?? Maybe that is part of why we are so eager to whisk on buy these
two women singing for joy... Maybe we don't get it.
Lets look just a little closer, at the passages we didn't get in this year's
lectionary. Gabriel, messenger from God, came to Mary to explain that she, in all the
world, had been chosen to bear this child. Luke wrote Mary with a keen and
questioning mind: "How can this be?" she asks. And only with ample information at
hand does Mary made a decision. Mary said "yes." Mary was chosen, AND Mary agrees. No matter what else we might think of these two unlikely women singing God's praises,
Mary came to her status with eyes open, affirming her trust in the steadfast love of
God to keep the promises made: that this child she will carry will change the course
of the world. With that trust in god's steadfast love, Mary sings with joy. Of
course there will be hard times ahead. Of course her world has changed in ways that
she cannot know. But her child will come when her child will come. For Mary, it isn't
a question of rushing headlong toward the birth, but of breathing deeply and living in
the promise that would be fulfilled in her own life, knowing that her life would never
be the same.
And maybe that's the lesson for us. While we are impatient to get on with it, we miss
the time in affirmation and preparation. December 25 comes whether we are "ready" or
not. Rushing headlong is liable to get the table set and packages wrapped, but does
it prepare US?
Does it give US the chance, with Mary, to say YES to God, once more
this year, to better understand the love and joy that knowing God through Jesus
Christ bring into our lives And perhaps, with Mary and Elizabeth, echoing Mary's YES,
some new spark will begin within us, a new love that will transform us, and through
us, will begin to transform the world.