Thursday, 21 December 2017

Advent 4: Can you spot her? Pauline West

Luke 1.26-38

Can you spot her: Mary, amongst the Christmas shoppers gathering to wait for Santa to come by on his sleigh?

Strip away all the adornments, beauty and adoration that the church has put on Mary and what do you have? A young girl pledge to marry an older man tradition says. One assumes it is an arranged marriage satisfactory for all the parties involved: a job well done. Those involved and those looking on would be pleased with the arrangement and looking forward to a wedding.
Then God intervenes.

Into her life comes the angel Gabriel carrying out yet another mission for God as part of his great project to live with his people and restore them into a perfect relationship with him. In modern terms God requires a surrogate mother. If he is truly to immerse himself in the life of his human creation he must start at the beginning; he must start at conception. He chooses Mary and sends Gabriel to tell her.

Mary is to conceive and bear a son and call him Jesus. Gabriel waxes lyrical at the honours to be heaped on this child. Mary simply asks him “How?” A curious question seeing she is to be married and will expect to have children including hopefully sons. It is as if Mary senses that there is more to this announcement than meets the eye and of course there is. Gabriel goes on with more astonishing news. This conception will occur now by a visitation of the Holy Spirit so the child to be born will be holy and called Son of God. Gabriel realises that a confused and shell-shocked Mary needs something concrete to hang onto so he tells her about Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy. Mary has human support to corroborate what she is hearing from God’s messenger.

There is a pause and then Mary agrees. I don’t think she read the small print so to speak until many days, weeks or months later. It was what God asked of her and so she said yes.

Why do I ask you to look for Mary amongst the shoppers? Like them she was not exceptional or famous; she was an ordinary girl, part of an ordinary family in a village tucked away in Galilee. It was God who saw she was exceptional and could do the job he wanted. He knew the focus of her heart was on him that she enjoyed the worship, enjoyed learning about him, not in any legalistic or ritualistic way but simply enjoyed being his daughter. When I think of Mary, I think of the words her son said “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God”.

If we are to see, hear and be aware of God, somewhere at the centre of our ordinary, imperfect lives has to be a longing to know and love and serve God more and more. That is the gem of purity that Mary had, that is the gem the Spirit would grow in all of us.

Look for Mary in the picture and while you are doing so look for Gabriel and God as well. 

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