Water for the thirsty soul – Mary – 24th December

Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’

34 ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’

35 The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.’

38 ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.

This big announcement that begins this thing called Christmas is no light and easy, well prepared and very understood thing, it seems. The hearer of the announcement that she will be given this apparent privilege is not feeling privileged at the start! Mary is not feeling the glow of Christmas lights or the warms and fuzzy vision of a family Christmas lunch! Mary is terrified at the arrival of the news.

 

But in her fear she finds a crucial question. It is an obvious question you would probably ask if you were told you are going to be a sort of ‘surrogate mother’! There is even a well known Christmas song titles with this question: What child is this? Whose child will it be?

What Child is this who, laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?

And even more: Why this child?

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.

‘The silent Word is pleading”. Is that Christmas for you. God silently pleading with you to ask this question for yourself again – What child is this and why is he here? Or is that pleading lost in all the drive for what Christmas has become – drowned out by much more noise?

I wonder whether you are asking anything of God this Christmas, or have you got it all sorted. Things will go as they go, and it will all be very civil.

But what child is this?

By ‘asking”, surely Mary does not mean that she was merely trying to figure out a mathematical equation or solve a puzzle or satisfy a simple curiosity about a thing or a person or an idea.

Mary, elsewhere in the Bible is revealed to be a deep thinker and a good listener. The question, “What child is this?”, is not a curiosity thing but a deep question of not only who the child is but who she is, and more, what she is here for. The question is not a Sudoku puzzle but a sign of serious soul searching for life and meaning and hope, and above all, love.

Have you the same sign at work in you as Christmas calls? Would you seriously ask that question of someone; of God  – “What child is this – for me?”

Maybe you have been searching for someone to show you who you really are and who we really are and who God really is all your life. Maybe you have not. Maybe you have given up that question and that searching long ago.

I do wonder, though, if it is ever possible for as person to give up the search for identity and meaning and faith and some kind of hope to place one’s life on.

I suspect the search for all these things and more goes on with every breath we take and every day we live.

The search for who I am, who you are, what I and we are all here for and where we are heading always lie in the background to the goings on of my day. I find myself always trying to find clues for hope and peace and love because I know they are good things that make people flourish; make me flourish and give us broken humans in this damaged word a hope of .

So, just because you happily name yourself, “Christian”, does not mean the time for searching and seeking for truth and life in God are over.  Just because you may not name yourself “Christian” does not mean you are not searching.

For all of us, this question, “What child is this? might be more needed and more hopeful than we think this Christmas.

“Shalom, Peace to you, favoured one of God” speaks the divine messenger to young Mary.

Peace. Deep peace is on offer here. Peace on our inside and peace among others. Even peace for a whole world in conflict. Who does not need and want that gift?

This child will be peace, says the messenger. The child will rescue millions from fear’s dark shadow. He will free those captive to hate, conflict, oppression of any kind, identity confusion, mental illness, hopelessness, physical pain, emotional turmoil, lost love, broken dreams, prideful self-glory in all its forms.

And his peacemaking work will not be temporary, as it is when the UN go into a country to keep the peace, it will last for all nations and all time.

The child will break the chains that grip us; chains within from our wayward and wondering heart that trusts in many things, places and people who can never deliver what this baby can deliver – Peace for me; peace for you; peace for us. Lasting peace. Deep peace. Active peace that makes peace wherever we go.

I love that line from Luke: “Mary treasured all these things in her heart”. I somehow want to do the same. Treasure this boy and this moment and these gifts he brings.

Like Mary, Christmas calls me to watch carefully and learn much from this bi announcement and all happens around me to let that silent Word plead me back to closeness and confidence in who Jesus is and therefore, who I am and what my purpose in in all of life.

Mary received great resilience and courage from her keeping. She had the resilience to watch this boy go on to bamboozle scholarly experts when aged twelve, then finally enter the heated battle of his mission when he was thirty, release people, heal people, challenge people, call a spade an spade, and overwhelmingly love people – that is, people who knew they did not deserve such things from him and simply received him.

As she asked and searched and watched and listened she was given the courage to stand there and watch her boy bleed through a long painful and shameful death with another thing of wood like his manger – the cross.

Friends, who are as a favoured as Mary in every way, go ahead and ask ‘What child is this…. for me?” in these days. This question brings lots of Christmas gifts. Peace, resilience, ability to courageously endure anything.

Yes. You have been favoured to know Jesus. He says so again these days of Christmas. He comes to give you life for another year. He comes to serve you with everything he has at enormous cost to himself so you can freely live well for others and him.

I am still with Bono of U2 in a way. He sung, “I still haven’t found what I am looking for”. That is partly true. But I do know where to find the peace and courage and endurance I need. He is right here.

Shalom. Peace be to you. You are a favoured person of the Lord God in this human body sent to speak with you, shape you, lead you, and love you.

I am praying that you can pray with Mary, “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.’

 

I am praying you can ask the question and find the faith to;

Raise, raise a song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

Amen

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