Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent Thoughts: Mary, Mother of Jesus

Life is Good: let's think about it

We've been very busy enjoying Advent (while trying not to be too busy!). I really love so much about this time of year...the anticipation of seeing loved ones, the excitement in children's hearts, the celebrations and parties. I love driving past Christmas lights at night, decorating sugar cookies and making other goodies. I look forward to each day's Advent activities whether that be drawing a picture of an angel, lacing and decorating a cutout of a gingerbread man, or reading our Christmas books right before bed. I also love the magic and mystery and wonder that surrounds Christmas. And when I think about the wonder of Christmas, my mind goes straight to Mary.

The year that I was pregnant with our eldest, our former pastor asked me to light the Advent candle one week at our church and say something about the season. "What should I say?", I asked. And he replied, "Whatever is in your heart." I look back on that now and realize that those were important words. For so many reasons. I think it is important to share what is on our hearts and to do it at church, especially. I love that he empowered me with and entrusted me with the freedom to speak to the congregation about "whatever was in my heart".

Quickly, the words came to me. It was easy to think of Mary. I was at this pregnant. She had been pregnant at this same time. And then I thought deeper.

Mary. She was just a girl. A girl. About the age of some of the youth at our church that Grant and I would hang out with on Wednesday nights. I considered what it might be like for one of those girls to be pregnant. That was unfathomable enough.

I thought about what it must have been like for Mary. An angel appears and tells her that she will be pregnant. Immaculately. And with the Son of God. What would we do if an angel just--poof--appeared before our eyes? Jump and shriek? Back away? Listen, but then doubt?

And yet, this young girl, this very young girl, we are told, listens to the angel and steps forward, accepting the responsibility, the honor to serve her God. And then she endures. Oh, what she must have endured. She was engaged, but not yet married. The whispers and ridicule she must have been subjected to. The unkindness and judgment must have been astounding.

And the fear, the anxiety of the unknown. Some of the most strong, modern, capable women I know---ones who are mature, well into their 30s, have been made into a puddle by pregnancy. That time in life can be worrisome and anxiety-ridden. There are so many variables, so many twitches and pings. And then to think of a young girl going through this all...

Think back. Do you remember middle school? That is about the age that Mary was when she was pregnant with our Lord and Savior. Middle school. I had a pretty great middle school experience, but it was still the most awkward and insecure time of my growing up. To think of Mary in this way makes her even more of an icon of strength to me. I ponder the faith and resilience and poise she must have had.

And the overwhelming pressure she must have felt. To be told that you will be the mother of the Son of God! The mother of the Son of God! King of Kings, Lord of Lords! The Prince of Peace! And yet, this, most likely, fragile girl of thirteen or fourteen--a teenager--believes.

Belief. So much of the Christmas Story is about wonder and marvel and miracle. And it is all about belief.

I remember being at a party a few years before we had our big kid. I was probably the least educated of the guest list. And I don't consider myself uneducated or without a properly working brain (well, at least I don't after my first cup of coffee!). However, this guest list was full of PhDs and graduate students and scientists and researchers. I walked into the kitchen to freshen my drink and discovered an academic discussion of why a "thinking person", a believer of science could never be a Christian. "There is no scientific fact!" "There is no proof!" I stood there and listened. I think I made a couple of remarks, but I knew this was not a "battle" I was going to win, so I decided to try, instead, to win the "war" with my example.

But for me, faith is not about scientific fact or proof. The Christmas Story is not about historical evidence or absolutes. My faith is about belief. And choice. I choose to believe.

I choose to believe.

And so did Mary. Despite the whispers and ridicule of her culture and her very young age, she believes the angel. She believes in her God. She believes. 

Faith is what is in your heart. You can use all of the words you know--even if you have a PhD or are a research scientist--and you still might not be able to define it. It is ever-changing, ever-growing. It is a willingness to let go of scientific fact and historical proof to let your heart wonder and marvel and accept a miracle.

Mary allowed herself to accept the miracle. So that is what I am doing today. I am thinking of Mary. I am thinking about what this time before Jesus' birth must have been like for her. I am saying praises of thanks for her strength, her belief. And I am opening my mind and my heart even wider so that I might be able to even better accept the miracle of the Christ Child's birth. Today, I'm marveling, I'm wondering, I'm basking in the miracle.


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