For those of you who may not have seen, it was a mixed week in the news:
On an upbeat note (pun intended), Beethoven’s 250th birthday was celebrated with a variety of online concerts and articles. On a more somber note, even as the first vaccinations have begun to be administered, the Coronavirus death toll in the US passed 315,000 and 1.68 million worldwide. And, depending on your disposition towards snow, the two feet of snow that most of us received here in the northeast on Weds night into Thursday either brought joy or frustration, or perhaps a mixture of both!
Yet this week is marked, of course, by an even bigger news story, one brought to us by the gospel of Luke, and one that has joyful ramifications even for the deepest of sorrows. I speak of the Annunciation of course: the front-page news that Mary has received from the angel Gabriel, that she would bear the Christ child on behalf of the world.
Teenage Mary. Unwed Mary. I wonder, were you frightened? Did you feel confused and alone? Did you wonder what this news would mean for your life and the world?
In today’s gospel we only hear Mary’s simple response, “Here I am...let it be according to your word.” Yet if we read a few verses further in Luke we hear the wondrous song that Mary sang in response to the angel’s news, the Magnificat; in which Mary pours out her joy for us to witness in magnificent poetic fashion: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46)
In response to hearing that her body, like the Tent of Meeting carried through the wilderness by the Israelites so long ago, would become a house for God, Mary sings with joy and faith. Every time the Israelites set up camp, the Tent of Meeting was also set up as an intersection place, a place for God to meet with the priests on behalf of the people. Now Mary’s womb would be that meeting place, that nexus between heaven and earth; providing the refuge in which our Savior could grow into human form just like all the rest of us, and then be brought into the world so as to hold the whole world in God’s hand.
What a privilege, what a holy calling for Mary, to bear this Christ child for the world! I bet she was scared, though, too. Mary was human after all, and humans are almost always carrying a mix of emotions around in hearts and minds, bodies, and spirits, rejoicing and weeping at the latest news of the world and of our lives.
Yet God showed up all those years ago with Mary to give her the courage that would be needed. God showed up to help her move through her unwed, teenage pregnancy, and then find her way to a safe place in a stable - because there was no room at the inn - and bear down in hard labor so that Jesus might come here for us all. Yes, it seems that Mary kept proclaiming in action the same humble, praising God attitude that she expressed when The Magnificat first poured forth from her:
“My soul magnifies the Lord!” And alongside that humble, praising God joy, a practical acceptance leading to action: “Here I am, do with me according to your will.”
As we move through these final few days of Advent, between this day and the first day of Christmas, perhaps we, too, might consider how to raise our voices metaphorically or literally to proclaim God’s greatness. And also, how we might declare our lives to be God’s, and ask for help to act according to God’s will. For though it may be in a very different way, we, too, are called to bear down and labor to bring Christ through our lives to this world. And though it may always be a mixed week in the news, there is one story that does not change: the story of Christ’s love incarnate, come down for you and for me, and the humble servants through which God works to bring this love to the world. Amen.