Sunday December 20, 2015.
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”
Media file is played – Mary and Joseph
They are wondering why!
A moment of shock for an overwhelmed Mary and a confused fiancé and tradesman, Joseph! Is this good or bad? Will this thing be good news or bad news? Joseph is all ears now! So is Mary. Are we all ears now?
In our times it seems to be no big deal to many to have children if married or not. In an ancient community this is a big deal because it is a dangerous place, not only for the person or couple who but for the community. Children being born outside the support of a mother and a father who are committed to each other for life is a disruption to how a family and a community worked.
These folks are not living in the affluent West as we are. They are living in the poor East. In their time, life is lived in ever-present poverty. Life often hangs on by a thread at the mercy of corrupted occupying Romans authorities, threat of invading armies, bad weather and natural disaster.
When anyone in the local community steps outside of how the community best works for everyone, that person disrupts the community and makes everyone more vulnerable to all of the above threats.
Mary and Joseph surely will be judged to have placed their home town and their family in harm’s way by engaging in sexual relations and becoming pregnant before they had entered into the life-long marriage relationship, even though this is not what they did – but who is going to believe their miraculous story!?.
Being judged to be outside the family and community shape is also dangerous for Mary on a very personal level. She could lose him. Joseph is a devoted partner. Sure, he is kidding himself, saying that a man can do two things at once! But Luke tells us that Joseph is a righteous man, displaying great humility, kindness and concern for his young fiancé.
Joseph may be a really bad listener but there is love and loyalty in this relationship. This so called favourable news, this “great honour” bestowed on Mary, may cost her this hard to find man. He could ‘walk’. He would have every community expectation with him. It would be no skin off his nose in terms of family or friends or business.
But he would lose the hard to find Mary too. …If Joseph decides to pull up stumps, Mary would have a much more tenuous future and a lot less love in her life – at least for a time….
When you think about it, the call of Christmas to us is the same. That infant in the cow trough is God in a way we did not expect or understand – at least at first. The longer I live the more profound this event becomes. Christmas is like a deep ocean. God becoming human for humans is deep and long and wide and you never will reach the bottom of it: Not in this lifetime anyway.
God’s ways are not our ways and his plans are better than ours. Just like God shifted Mary and Joseph’s life sideways into his much grander plan for his world, God’s calling on our lives at Christmas shifts the way we live and makes it matter in the very largest of plans God has for his world.
Christmas says that God is the Creator and Sustanier of all creation winning his creation back from evil and darkness in all of this very surprising and often hard to deal with plan he is putting into effect in the lives of these everyday people; people just like you and me.
Just as he highly favoured Elizabeth, Zechariah, Mary and Joseph, the working class Shepherds, the scientists of the stars and a whole town, a city and nation and this world, so he has highly favoured you and me.
He has called you into the stable, shown you his deep commitment and love for you and given you the privileged position of being part of his world-changing plan to heal help and hold this world together. He has made our small lives bigger than we could have ever known and we are all favoured, even if God’s favour sometime causes us some stress – like it did for Mary!
The joy of being loved that much
“Shalom” to you, Cousin Liz”, says Mary. “Peace be upon you!” says a young pregnant Mary to an older pregnant Elizabeth. Little tiny John moves and kicks in his womb and Lizzy is full of joy at this stunning news for both of them. Two woman at the opposite ends of life joined together in a special bond of joy all because of God’s gift of hope given to them. They are jumping for joy because they know for sure that God is on the move and things are changing fast. There are good days up ahead. That’s Christmas for Christian isn’t it?
A privileged calling
Advent is the time to ponder your privileged calling as a fellow traveller with Elizabeth and Mary and the rest. Advent and Christmas are times to ponder what on earth we do with the favour we have been given – chosen, called, named, loved, given a mission, grafted into a Living Vine called the local church, daily bread, forgiveness as we forgive, hope beyond illness and death, joy, peace, hope and love.
We might ponder things like;
- Mary lost and gained. What could you lose if you trust the promise of God for your life and what do you gain?
- Mary and Joseph had to keep trusting the Lord, taking him at his word. What are you willing to risk to take the Lord’s at his word and be a person through whom the Lord’s saving activity comes to your family, friends, and acquaintances?
- Mary risked her lover, her marriage, her future, her family, her good name, her place in the community to partner with the Lord in his bringing a new time, new era, new relationship, new light, new life to a broken, troubled and dark world. Are you risking things to be God’s woman, God’s man, God’s young person, God’s child?
Luke tells us about Mary and Elizabeth because they are to be emulated; copied.
As we receive their example and the good news they were enabled to bring, I am praying we can be like them both and take this good news of God with us in such a human way as pure joy – the joy of being loved by the Lord that much!
I am praying for myself and for everyone that life jumps to life in us as God’s people as we enjoy the songs, the prayers the words of Christmas. We need Mary and her baby. We need the peace and the sheer joy of good news God gave through her to Elizabeth. God is love and he loves.
We need it so we can truly down tools and hear God speaking to us. Maybe we all can’t do two things at once or serve two things at once? We need to be shocked into downing tools sometimes like Joseph was.
Getting our attention
God is looking for our attention like Mary was searching for Joseph’s attention. Mary finally got it. In the moment of shock at the big news of God Mary speaks, Joseph finally listened.
God speak to you. God shock you. God get through to you. God surprise you again. God love you and give you genuine joy in his great love for you and everyone else.
God shift you with so that you are a person of love to live this life he is calling you to live so that you’ll risk anything just to be his and share in his plan for his world right here where you live.