Luke 1:39-45 (46-55)
I am a lover of Christmas Carols, as long as they are played during the Christmas Season. Of course, I like a carol that tells a story, but I genuinely appreciate theologically correct carols. I mean, who can forget that theological masterpiece, Dominic the Christmas Donkey. Or that old-time favorite that pulls at the theological imagination, Grandma got run over by a reindeer. Then, of course, there are also those carols that folks want to imagine that have theological significance to them, but it turns out it is just a good sing like the 12 days of Christmas.
But today, we stumble up the answer to the age-old theological conundrum; Mary, did you know?
We have to back up a few months to put it all in context. We have to go back to a small room in an equally small house in Nazareth to where a young girl, probably no more than 13 or 14, is living with her parents. Tradition tells us that her parents, Joachim, and Anna, were childless and constantly prayed that God would bless them with a child. God did, in fact, bless them in their old age, and they had a daughter and named her Mary.
Continuing with tradition, Mary was a unique child and grew up in the Temple hearing the prophets being read and hearing the many stories of the coming Messiah. When it came time for her to be married, she was betrothed to a man named Joseph.
Scripture does not have much to say about Joseph, but tradition tells us he was much older than Mary, a widower, and had children from that previous marriage. Joseph agreed to marry Mary, and a date had not yet been announced for their wedding.
Mary was in that small room one night, and an angel appeared to her. The Angel told her that she had found favor with God and that God had chosen her to be the mother of God’s Son. As one would expect, Mary had some questions, but all she wanted to know was how after all, she was still a maid and was not married yet. That was the only question. Mary agreed.
We must pause here for a moment to take in the gravity of what just happened. The first striking thing that has happened, apart from the Angel and whatnot, is that this young girl decided for herself. Understand how counter-cultural this is. A young girl, such as Mary, would not make any decisions for herself, let alone one that would change her life. Her father and then her husband would make those decisions.
But the other part of this is what is most amazing to me; Mary agreed to become pregnant, without an explanation that she could share, knowing that the penalty for such a crime would, at a minimum, be banishment from the community and at the maximum, she would have been stoned until she was dead. Mary would have known this, yet she placed herself in this danger.
When Joseph found out about this, he was a little concerned, as one can imagine. The story she was telling was utter nonsense. How could this happen? He wanted to end the engagement and send her off someplace, quietly, to have her child. Although he was upset, Joseph also did not want any harm to come to Mary. Joseph shows great compassion for Mary.
That night, the same Angel comes and visits Joseph and tells him that it will all be okay. This will not be the last time this Angel comes and tell Joseph all will be well. But Joseph trusts God, and this messenger is sent from God and takes Mary as his wife.
Now we come to today’s story. After some time, Mary goes off to see he kinswoman Elizabeth. We do not know the actual relationship, but Mary and Elizabeth are related, as best we can figure, Elizabeth is Mary’s aunt. There is joy when they meet; they are both expecting and both because of God’s promise. Elizabeth greets Mary and tells her that the baby in her womb leaped for joy when the baby heard Mary’s voice. Elizabeth questions her kinswoman about the visit and calls Mary, the mother of her Lord. This is the first acknowledgment of what is happening.
Elizabeth continues and tells Mary that she and her child are blessed. Then we find out what Mary knew.
Mary says that she is blessed by God, and she is humbled that she has been chosen for this honor. She says that all generations will remember her, which is true since here we are some 2,000 years later still talking about her.
Then Mary starts to preach, God’s mercy extends to all who believe from generation to generation. God will exalt the humble and scatter the mighty. God will fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty. God will care for all and love all.
In her own way, Mary lays out the Good News that her Son will one day preach that God loves everyone and cares for everyone. God is sending this child to change the way we think and act towards each other and show us a new way of love. Mary knew that this tiny baby was the Son of God and the Messiah; Mary knew it all!
But while we focus on the greatness of the Child that Mary is carrying, we forget what happened in that small room in her house before this. We lose focus of that yes of Mary. God chose Mary, but Mary still had to consent to the plan. Yet, Mary’s courage, trust, and yes, changed the world!
This story is about trust, the trust that we need to have in God. Mary took a risk with the understanding that God would not abandon her. Mary risked her life trusting God, and God did not leave her. It is the same with us. We are being called to trust God with the assurance that God will never abandon us.
Let us pray that we might have the same trust that Mary had, and when God asks us to do something, we simply say yes.