Advent · Church · Sermon & Talks

Mary, Mary

Luke 1:46-56 (Mary’s song)

“My soul glorifies the Lord”

“My Spirit rejoices in God my saviour”

I wonder if you were to find yourself in Mary’s predicament whether those words would be the one’s that sprung to your lips?

“Rejoice”

Rejoice that you’re a pregnant single women in the 1st century. Rejoice that you fiance doesn’t believe your protests of innocence and claims of visiting angels. Rejoice that you are shamed. Rejoice that you are an outcast forced to visit a distant cousin to save the pain of your family as your belly grows bigger.

Rejoice.

The obedience of Mary to submit to God’s call on her life is staggering. I sometimes wonder, perhaps heretically, how many people God asked before Mary said yes. Because obedience suggests that Mary had the free will, as we all do, to say ‘Thanks but no thanks’ to God’s request.

Did she have any choice? Let’s go back to Mary’s response to the angel in verse 38: `I am the Lord’s servant… may it be to me as you have said’. Now this is definitely not the equivalent of a modern teenager’s “whatever” It’s a positive embracing of God’s purposes for her life. Mary was a godly young woman who was ready to serve God.

We see that in her song It sounds almost like a psalm, doesn’t it? But it’s not
it’s Mary’s own song. And this shows the extent to which God’s word had formed the way Mary thought about life and everything. It also shows that she was aware of the history of her people; of God’s faithfulness to them, all the way back to Abraham.

It’s worth reflecting on the kind of person Mary was before all this happened. Yes, she was an ordinary teenage girl in the sense that she wasn’t from a noble family, or from one whose doings had been particularly note-worthy. But she’d have heard the scriptures read from an early age, and her response shows that she’d absorbed the biblical way of looking at life. She must have developed a considerable degree of trust in this God she’d heard about.

Because, when the angel came, she was open and receptive to God’s plans; she was ready to serve him. ‘…may it be to me as you have
said’.

It’s a mistake to see Mary’s obedience as coming ‘out of the blue’. It was the
culmination of years of preparation, absorbing godly values and prayerfully living according to God’s will. That’s the thing about genuine obedience, as opposed to compliance.

True obedience doesn’t come out of the blue; it comes out of a degree of
mutual knowledge and understanding. Mary’s heart says, `I can’t understand all the details of how its going to work out, but I trust you, Lord, and so I choose to be your obedient servant’

And so despite all the pain and shame she must have suffered at the hands of her community, despite Joseph’s initial disbelief and suspicions. Despite becoming a social outcast, Mary is still able to sing in joyful acclimation of God’s unfolding plan: ‘Rejoice’

I don’t know about you but today I am struggling to rejoice. The shock and utter sadness of the events we’ve seen reported form Connecticut this week weigh heavy on me. I struggle for answers to the questions we all have, to know how or why such tragic events could unfold.

Perhaps more than anything else the sensless death of children makes us ask why?

I wish I had answers. I wish I could tell you why. I know the world we live in is broken and I know that evil things happen. I know God works out all things for good but I have no words, no right today to talk in that way. Anything I could say would sound trite and inappropriate.

Somehow as a people of faith we stand in the gap between this broken world of hurt and pain and the eternal world of God’s Kingdom where death and dying will be no more, where pain and sadness and separation have no place.

This is where Mary stood.

True to her God. Willing to serve even though she couldn’t comprehend wholly what God was doing. Ready to put self aside, to trust in God’s promises and to work out his plans for good through the shame, the heartache and the pain.

It’s the place we’re called to stand as believers. On days like today more so than ever. We don’t have the answers, we can’t tell you why things like the Newtown attack happen. But we stand on the threshold of two worlds, perfect and imperfect. Trusting in God, not through some blind obedience to dogma but because like Mary we have come to know that He is good and trustworthy and faithful.

Advent is about waiting and watching for the signs of the coming Christ as we prepare to celebrate the incredible act of grace by God in giving Jesus to the world to reconcile us with Him. This is the hope we can rejoice in, even at times like this when our hearts break for the grief we witness.

May we too echo that song of Mary’s “My spirit rejoices in God my saviour” and as we do point others to the hope we’ve found in Him, Mary’s son.

 

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