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Advent 4 – Mary

Love Changed Mary’s Story

Intro:

We are in the Christmas season of Advent:

This is a time of spiritual preparation which allows us a four week journey towards Christmas. This year we have looked at the stories of the people around Jesus.

The first week began with the story of Joseph; then we moved on to John the Baptist, and then last week was the story of Angels and Shepherds.

Today is week four: and we pause with Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

The Text for today is Luke 1: 47-48

My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For he has remembered his humble servant.

The story of Mary is a familiar story. Everything from Christmas carols to nativity scenes to Christmas church services tell the story of Mary giving birth to Jesus .

But over time the story of Mary became more complicated: it became the story of Mary – the Madonna, Our Lady – who remained a perpetual virgin, who never died and who went directly to heaven…

It became the story of Mary who reigns as the Queen of Heaven, Theotokos, Panagia, Star of the Sea and Help of all Christians – receiver of lighted candles and desperate prayers……
And in the process of this emerging religious theology around the person of Mary – we can easily lose sight of just how necessary the story of Mary is for our world today.
I am convinced that our world of the twenty-first century needs the memory of Mary – not the exalted ecclesiastical figure that she has become: No – the real Mary of 2000 years ago.

The Mary of Nazareth – who most likely was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old when we first meet her.
Mary, the daughter of Joachim and Anna – from the clan of Judah.

So here is the original story of Mary: before the church got hold of her story and built shrines and statues and cathedrals.

Today’s story  comes from Luke 1 : 26-38

I am using the version of the Bible called The Message:

26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

29-33 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”

34 Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”

35 The angel answered,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.

36-38 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”

And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.

Then the angel left her.

So who is Mary?

Mary is a 14 year old girl – who comes from an insignificant town in the rebellious hill country of the rural areas – 2000 years ago.
Mary is a 14 year old girl, who is betrothed to be married – but not yet moved to the home of her husband.
Mary is pregnant – but her husband is not the father of her child.

And I think that her story is important.
It is important because God came to find her….
Her story is important because God loved her until she discovered her own worth as God’s beloved daughter.

Text: Luke 1: 47-48

My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For he has remembered his humble servant.

She is a humble servant because Mary lived

  • In a world where a women was the minor of her father until she became the minor of her husband.

She is a humble servant because Mary lived

  • In a world where she was little more than a child – and so she suffers double jeopardy: she is both female and very young.

This young, pregnant, unmarried female, from a hillbilly family in the rural badlands of a forgotten region meets The God of the Universe,
the Creator of all time and space
the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The One Eternal God chooses to enter the world of this young girl and embrace her with Divine Love.

The reason why I think that her story is important is that we struggle to remember that God loves women such as Mary.
While we might admire beautiful, strong, powerful, wealthy women
We generally relegate women to supportive roles

And so the saying:
“Behind every successful man is a woman”
(My mother would add – a surprised woman”!)…but women mostly are meant to be standing in the wings while men rule the world.

We have done this with Mary:
she is not remembered as Mary of Nazareth!
We do not remember her as Mary – to whom the Angel spoke

She only becomes significant when we give her the title Mary – the Mother of Jesus….the man gives her significance.

And we have done this to women ever since then:
For much of human history Women had to accept the leaders that men chose for them
For much of human history Women had to live in the property chosen by the men in their family
And women had to take on the family name of the man….because only then was she recognised.
When women run for political office – they often have to behave like men to be taken seriously
When women become church pastors – they find congregation members comparing them to men!

Mary knew this: She was a product of her culture: but instead of stepping quietly into the sidelines – she steps into the centre of the story of Jesus.

  • It is Mary who organises things at the Wedding of Cana – where Jesus steps into public ministry
  • It is Mary who stands at the foot of the cross – when all the men run away
  • It is Mary who is at the tomb on Easter Sunday
  • and it is Mary who is the first preacher of resurrection of Jesus.

The love of God overwhelmed her and changed the way she saw herself.

Text: Luke 1: 47-48

My Spirit rejoices in God my Savior
For he has remembered his humble servant.

And so I offer us Mary – of Nazareth: to whom the Angel of God spoke – who is changed by the love of God from a humble servant to a hero of our faith.

I offer us Mary….

And challenge us this Christmas to see the Marys in our families – to see the women in our community – as having sacred worth:
Not because of the men they have married
Not because of who their fathers are
Not because of their sons
But Because Women are God’s Beloved.

I want to challenge us to look out especially for the girl-children around us….

Because we live in a world where men hurt girls.

  • Listen to our girls – if they say that someone has hurt them – believe them
  • If they say that they do not want to kiss an uncle in the family – believe them and do not force them to kiss someone – ever.

On a more positive note:
Let us listen to our women – because who knows:
God might use them to speak a truth for our family.
Or for our community
Or for our world.

And just in case we do not get it:

There is a young girl who has been speaking to us about caring for our planet.
Her name is Greta Thunberg – and she has just been named Time Personality of the Year
But it is tempting to overlook her
Some people have asked where her father is
Or who the men are behind her
because how can a young girl have anything to say to our world.

Remember: God spoke to a young girl called Mary – and when she responded – the world was saved.

Challenge us this Christmas to listen to the Marys amongst us – because they might just have a word from God for us..

 

“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” Finley Peter Dunne (1867–1936)