“I need to tell you about this incredible thing that happened to me. I was in my father’s house doing my chores, when this great light a appeared, and suddenly and angel was standing there! I was frightened out of my wits! But he said don’t be afraid, I have a message for you from God. All I could think was that there must be some mistake, I’m nobody, nothing, just a little Jewish girl of no real family or status. Why would God want to talk to me?
Then the angel tells me that I’m going to conceive a child by the Holy Spirit! What ??! I’m not even married yet, just betrothed to Joseph, the carpenter.
How can this happen? And why me?
Doesn’t God know how this will look to everyone else? It will look like I cheated on Joseph, or that he and I had already been intimate. It will be horrible for both our families! Joseph might even decide to not marry me, or worse have me stoned to death, according to the law!
But the angel said to not be afraid. That the power of the Most High God would overshadow me and protect me because this child to be born is the Messiah, come to save our people from their sin.
The Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us. Born from me. God saw me. God noticed me. Not a princess of Israel but me.
What else could I do? I said to the angel I am the handmaid of the Lord, Let it be to me as you have said.
I couldn’t believe it. No one here could possibly understand what I was going through so I went to my cousin, Elizabeth. She’s a lot older than I am, but from what I’ve heard, God has noticed her, too. She is pregnant, at an age far past the time of childbearing. She’ll understand.
And Elizabeth did. She, who had been barren for so long, was almost ready to give birth. Her husband Zechariah hadn’t believed the angel he had seen who had told him of Elizabeth’s condition. Even though he was a priest of the Temple, he didn’t believe that God could do it. So he lost the power of speech until the child was born.”
Mary, Mother of Jesus
Two women, both in very unusual circumstance. One so elderly you would think it impossible, and another who was still a virgin. Both blessed by God with children who would change the course of human history.
We’ve heard of Johns work the last few weeks, preparing the way for his younger relative, Jesus. His preparation laid the groundwork for what Jesus came to do.
But nothing would have happened at all if that young girl just doing her chores hadn’t said yes to God. God waited for her agreement. She knew it would not be easy. There would be gossip, people staring at her, her parents talked about, maybe insulted, there was Joseph’s honor to think about. It was a hard decision.
But Mary said yes. Yes, God I trust you to use me to bless the whole world through this child.
And after she ran to Elizabeth, even the child in Elizabeth’s womb knew that God’s work was being done as it leaped in her womb. The unborn John rejoiced at this child’s coming.
How could Mary do anything but rejoice? Sing? Glorify God?
Her song was full of imagery. She gave thanks for God regarding the lowly and using her as part of God’s plan. She remembered all the promises God had made to Israel in the past. It sang of the lowly being lifted up and the proud and wealthy cast down into nothing. It sang of God’s mercy and help to all generations.
It was full of joy. Pure utter joy. Joy and thanksgiving for all God’s blessing to her and to all people.
We call this a season of joy, and yet joy seems so hard to find. The only ones who seem to still feel true joy at this time are the smallest among us. They haven’t yet succumbed to the constant advertising and expectation we experience. All they know is that there are people in their lives that make this time of year magical for them, and they feel the love in that effort. They feel the presence of God’s love through the hands and hearts of those who love them. Have you ever watched a small child when you show them the baby Jesus in the manger? They still get it. They feel the wonder, the power of that starry night so long ago, the song of the angels, the clumsy joy of the shepherds as they raced to see the newborn king. The children around us still feel that joy.
The same joy that Mary felt and sang about. The joy of God’s promises and God’s great unending, overflowing love for each of us. The promise of a Savior, fulfilled in that tiny wooden manger.
Think for a minute. What about this season brings you complete unadulterated joy? No holding back, no qualifications? Just think.
I’d be willing to bet that it isn’t your home, or your bank account, or that trip you’re planning on taking next year. What brings us joy is our relationships with one another. For it is within those relationships we experience our full humanity, with one another, not alone.
In our relationships, in our love for one another, that is the closest we come to seeing the face of God, and feeling the love of God for us.
Mary sang of God’s favor, God’s might, God’s mercy, God’s strength, but at the root of it all is God’s love. For without God’s love there would be no need for a John the Baptist to prepare the way for Emmanuel, God with us. She rejoiced in God’s favor and in God using her to bring God’s love in human form into the world.