Growing up in an evangelical Protestant denomination, I had little understanding the importance of Mary to the Christmas story…well, obviously I understood that without Mary the whole thing sort of fell apart, but anything other than a small part of the nativity scene, there wasn’t anything special there.
Then, as I learnt more about the broader Christian tradition, I realised that to Catholics and our Orthodx brothers and sisters, Mary was a far more significant player in the drama. Concepts like ‘theotokos’, or ‘mother of God’ sounded strange though…dangerous even to a simple, evangelical world view, and so Mary was quietly pushed to one side. Perhaps we might reflect on her ready willingness to submit to God’s divine plan, but any more than that – well, that was going too far.
But pause, just for a moment, and think about the story. Move away from the manger scene and engage with the messiness of real life in first century Palestine.
A young girl, pregnant. Disgrace.
Claiming the baby was a gift from God. Crazy.
Soon to be divorced. Scandal.
Everything was on the line here…the scriptures demanded that a woman in her situation, an adulteress, should be stoned to death…the mother and child erased from society to stop the contamination of the ‘righteous’ by sin. It’s what has to happen.
All of this lying ahead if she whispers ‘yes‘. And I think she probably knew this.
And yet, ‘yes’.
Whatever it costs, ‘yes’.
So perhaps we need to reconsider our view of Mary, to realise that ‘theotokos’ doesn’t mean placing Mary on a par with the Trinity, but instead realises the supreme sacrifice that motherhood would bring – from social ostracism at birth to loss at crucifixion to joy at resurrection. All of that starts here with a ‘yes‘.
She whispers ‘yes‘, and the world is transformed.
A simple, beautiful, sacrificial ‘yes‘.
So, to close my advent reflections I want to leave here Mary’s words recorded by Luke in the Magnificat. My hope is that we too may be just as willing to whisper ‘yes‘ to whatever it is that our role is to be in the unfolding re-creation drama.
After all, who knows what might be started by our willingness to join in?
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.