Sunday, December 18, 2005

Advent 4 - Year B

She lumbered out of bed to wash her face and splashed water on her forehead, already hot from the early morning sun. She waddled over to the bed and eased herself back down. Soon she was supposed to go on a journey, yet she was as big as a house.

Staring at the ceiling, Mary concentrated on her breathing. The baby inside kicked. With sweat trickling into her ears, she wondered how long ‘til she’d have to get up – and get moving. She lay there, studying the cracks in the ceiling.

She was pregnant without a father. An angel had told her that her baby would be of the ancient throne of King David. Knowing how crazy that sounded, she thought, at first, that she might want to keep that information to herself. She was a nobody living in the middle of nowhere. Telling Joseph was one thing. Telling her neighbours quite another.

The angel said that Mary found favour with God. There were days when Mary wasn’t so sure about that. She endured the stares, heard the whispers, and suffered the phony smiles floating on the surface of smoldering condemnation. Just another pregnant teenager who couldn’t control herself. Precisely what the world needed: another single mom with no way to support her child. Even though she knew she didn’t do anything wrong, there were times when their shame-filled stares made her feel dirty.

Of course, Joseph got off easy. People just assumed that he was innocent. When a young woman got pregnant it was always assumed SHE did something wrong. Never the man. If Joseph decided to pick up his stuff and go, no one would blame him. After all, who would want to take care of a baby that wasn’t his?

But Joseph was made of better stuff. And Mary knew it. And was grateful.

But still, she was a poor girl in a small village carrying the very power of God in her belly. How could she tell anyone that?

It was like God was telling a joke; God’s cosmic sense of humour exerting itself again. When God wanted a family to work with, God chose two nonagenarian, homeless, sheep herders named Abraham and Sarah. When God wanted a nation, God chose an enslaved people who were mad at God. When God wanted a king, the people chose a second rate football player named Saul, with more brawn than brain. But God chose a small shepherd-boy named David, the kid who used to deliver brown-bag lunches for his brothers.

So, somehow, the offspring of heaven, growing in a pregnant teenager’s belly made strange sense.

Like every other poor family, she hungered for the Messiah’s coming. Someday, there’d be justice. Someday, there’d be enough food for everyone to eat. Someday, they would live their lives free from tyranny.

Someday.

She remembered Hannah’s song, the song about the well-heeled looking at each other trying to get used to hunger pains after the heartburn from their full-bodied food. The powerful would line up to take orders from those they previously ignored.

The song sounded so outrageous that Mary laughed out loud and sang her own words to the familiar song, “My soul magnifies the Lord”

Mary hauled water from the well, panting with exertion. When she looked down, she couldn’t see her feet for her belly. “The rich are fat, the poor have babies,” she said as she rubbed her belly. She was poor and pregnant, like all her friends. But she was called “blessed”, favoured among women. And she hadn’t done anything to deserve this. It just happened.

It was like how her song said God would act. God looks with favour at her, God’s servant! God gives mercy to whomever God wants. God shows strength, God scatters the proud. God cancels worldly powers and gives them to the lowly. God feeds the hungry and not the rich. God chooses to be faithful. Where we fail, God lovingly steps in.

That’s just it. Mary winced as she raised the water jar to her head and started back on the dusty road. God acts when and where God feels like it. God says that we can act as well, we can act with God – do justice, feed the hungry, comfort the suffering, tell stories of faith, pray, remember God’s promises. And that way, we’ll have a chance to praise and celebrate all that God is doing. Magnify the Lord, rejoice in God our saviour. Make up songs and have a good time singing them. But whether we will or whether we won’t, God will still act.

“I didn’t choose this pregnancy,” Mary smiled to herself, wiping her sweat-soaked brow. “God acts whether or not I give God permission.” She couldn’t quite imagine it…the Holy Presence knocking at her door, glowing celestial glory. “Uh…Mary?…Mary, I…um….was wondering…well…I really wanted to ask you…that is, I would like you to…give birth…that is, be pregnant….you know…have a baby…uh, the Messiah?”

But Mary could be part of this in ways that were more fun than just hanging out and watching. Caring for her baby was part of God’s work in the world; her prayers, her participation in her faith community, sharing her food with neighbours who didn’t have any. She liked her song. Catchy tune, good lyrics. God seemed happy to let her enjoy this – wanting to share this whole experience with them.

God’s acting meant she didn’t have to make the huge decisions. God had already made some tough choices – for justice, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, faith. God’s acting gave her freedom. The freedom to be an explorer, the freedom to be a participant in what God is already doing, the freedom to share herself with God’s world.

And Mary wondered if that was the gift that she was carrying in her womb. The world needed that freedom, the freedom from knowing that we have received mercy, compassion, forgiveness; the freedom from seeing justice alive in an unjust world, and the freedom of faith bringing healing and comfort to broken people.

Humming her song, Mary shuffled on towards home.

2 Comments:

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12:19 AM  
Blogger Steve Bogner said...

That's a great story Kevin - a great example of entering into the scriptures. Thanks for this one.

3:59 AM  

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