I have been thinking about Mary a great deal in this Advent season and this particular moment in our life together. For some reason, her story, her example, and her witness are shining a little bit brighter and resonating a little bit more this Advent season.
Perhaps it’s the discord we see around us. Perhaps it’s our persistent failure to love one another well or to pursue justice or to walk humbly. Perhaps it’s all the grief and suffering we see in this nation and in the world that leads us to identify with the confounding grace, powerful call, and otherworldly response that we find in Mary’s story. For it was through her that God broke into our ailing world with the good news of Jesus.
Mary’s radical obedience is particularly striking. It’s not that she was unruffled; Luke tells us that she was perplexed by the angel Gabriel’s visit. It’s not that she takes it all in unquestioningly; when Gabriel tells her that she will give birth, she responds, “How can this be?” It’s not that she was fearless; the angel felt the need to soothe her, urging her not to be afraid. No, she may not have been fearless, but Mary was courageous. She said yes — to faith, to trust, to God’s promises.
Reading her story again, one wonders whether she still harbored some doubts. Luke tells us she “went with haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Was she seeking solace, or comfort, or a listening ear? Regardless, it was there, with family, through relationship, and in community, that her hope was reaffirmed.
Isn’t this the call of Christmas? Together as a family of faith, we celebrate the coming of God’s promise and speak the possibilities of new life to one another. As we mark Jesus’s birth once again, let our hearts respond by sending up prayers for holy obedience. Let us echo Mary’s timeless words as well as her courageous, radical, and joyful spirit, saying hopefully, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”
May you experience joy this Christmas and always,
The Rev. Amy Nyland
Regional Synod of New York