I remember the day Kathleen told me the good news that I was going to be a father. To be honest, that’s all I really remember. It was in the day. You'll have to ask Kathleen to fill in the rest of the details. However I do remember the pregnancy. Ten long, painful months of nausea, aches and pains, emotional instability that slowly became irrational irritability! Of course there was all the extra weight gain! And that was just me! Again, Kathleen can tell you her side of the story.
While I clearly developed all the symptoms of a sympathetic pregnancy, I still have no clue of what women go through to bring life into fruition.
A perfect segue to Mary’s Song located in the Gospel of Luke 1:39-55.
It’s kind of funny how Mary’s song comes during the week we celebrate Peace. Having witnessed it three times, there not a lot of what I might call “peace” during the birth process. Just as Eugene Peterson spoke of pregnancy, Advent is a time of joyful preparation. It is a time for us to get ready for a radically new way of life that happens once the baby comes.
Earlier in Luke we get the first part of Mary’s story. Again, it’s hard for me to imagine what that young girl was feeling when she discovered she was pregnant, or later when she’d be giving birth in a filthy barn far far away from her family and the comforts of home. Peace isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But Mary’s response to this good news suggests there is a sense of God’s shalom in her the wholeness and completeness of God’s being that grows and swells within her.
While our Christmas pageants like to give her story a Disney makeover, Mary is not some carefree teenager from a royal family. She is not a princess but a poor underage girl, who is unintentionally pregnant just to make matters worse. Living in a poverty stricken, military occupied country, Mary is, by all accounts, a girl without hope of a better life.
Given the customs of her day, the fact that she was still unmarried suggests she was most likely very young, probably around 10-12 years old and just entering puberty. Thus making the mystery of her calling that much more powerful, even if it makes her that much more vulnerable. Yet God chose her, this hopeless and unimportant girl, to be Theotokos, the “God bearer.”
Of course, Joseph was no knight in shining armor. We don’t know much about him other than what we see in paintings. He is alway portrayed as this grown man...kind of like a father figure. Some suggest the early church required artist to depict Joseph like this so there would be no hint of “sex” in Mary’s story. In light of the #MeToo movement, we might be better off showing Joseph as he most likely was a kid, maybe a young teenager at best. We don’t know if there was love between the two...or if their marriage was pre-arranged. But Luke tells us that Joseph heard the news, and did what he was asked to do.
Our focus today is not on the young couple but the two cousins, whose pregnancies have defied nature and science. One is too young to have babies, and the other too old. And in both...no man was necessary for this to happen.
Here in Luke’s story is “a preteen and a matriarch at the greatest meeting of all time – two women counted worthless in most cultures have their wombs honored and blessed by God’s presence.” Their sons will usher in the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that the prophets all predicted would be one of peace not war. Through Mary, God triumphantly breaks through the birth canal, takes his first breath and like every good baby, begins to turn our world upside down.
Jesus is that king, the royal savior who comes to rule over all the nations – the One who hears our cries, bears our infirmities and brings everlasting life, the wholeness and completeness of God’s shalom.
Jesus is the hope we hold on to. He is the love we desire. The joy that makes us breaks out in song. He is our peace when the chaos of the world overwhelms us. And so, we wait through this season of Advent for the coming of this heavenly king to enter life in the most basic, most vulnerable, and most unexpected way. A baby born to girl who said “yes” to God. The gift of peace that fills her womb is the gift she will share with the world.
While peace comes from God, it is made manifest in us. Just as God did the impossible in the wombs of these two unlikely women, so too is God able to work through us – bringing hope to the hopeless, love to the loveless, joy to the joyless, and the light of peace to a world that is sick and tired of living in the darkness of sin.
God’s peace does not favor one person or country over another. It is for all who want it in their life. The only catch is this, if you take this gift, then you too must be like Mary and be willing to give it all away.
Like Mary, when we carry Jesus to full term, the world breaks into song. And a heavenly choir sings “Blessed are you and the fruit of your womb.” Mary’s song is our song too. It is a song of victory. A song of praise. A song of peace on earth and goodwill to all. It’s a song we are all summoned to sing.
And so my challenge to you today is this: are you ready to join in the chorus? Are you ready to be God’s mother, to carry the peace of Christ within you? Are you willing to birth God’s perfect Shalom for the world?
Meister Eckhardt famously said, “We are all called to be God's mother, because God needs to be born every day.” This is one of my favorite quotes of all time. It reminds me that wherever I go, whatever I do, I am called to give birth to Christ in the way I love, and forgive, and care for others.
With Christmas morning only two days away, and as we anxiously wait to see what we will get, let us remember what we have been given already. Behind those pretty wrapped Christmas presents is the real gift of Christ’s presence. It is a present that needs to be gifted and regifted, day after day to help us keep the peace of today burning brightly for tomorrow.
With the glowing light of peace illuminating our way, may we never forget that we are not only carrying Jesus in us, but we are also bearing his hope, his love, his joy and the fullness of God’s shalom that he offers us.
I invite you now to close your eyes and listen to the words St. Francis of Assisi, who lifted up this prayer to God over 1200 years ago.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.”
has been blogging under the name: Jesus not Jesús: Looking for Christ in the face of strangers. You can read his posts and browse his archives by clicking here.
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