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12/20/2009 - The Rev. Susan N. Blue - Advent IV

posted May 21, 2010, 6:53 PM by Unknown user   [ updated May 21, 2010, 6:53 PM by Terry Brady ]
“…blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled…” (Luke 1:45)

“A young girl listened attentively as her big sister told her a bedtime story:

Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess who had a golden ball. One day the ball fell into a well. However, an ugly frog came along and retrieved it for her. The beautiful princess was so grateful to the frog that she took it with her to her room in the palace. During the night the ugly frog turned into a handsome prince. At this point in the story, the little girl began to look very skeptical. ‘What’s wrong?’ her sister asked. ‘Don’t you believe the story?’ The little girl answered: ‘No! I don’t believe it, and I don’t think the Princess’s mother believed it either!’”

This little story points to the dilemma faced by Mary, a young woman who was probably no older than 13. To recap the prologue to our story this morning: Mary was visited by an angel of the Lord who told her that she would conceive a son by the Holy Spirit who to be named Jesus and would be the son of God. The angel went on to tell her that her relative, Elizabeth, an older woman who was said to be barren, was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Mary’s response was: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” As a young, unmarried, pregnant woman her future was in great doubt. Despite that, she accepted her circumstances and immediately went to visit Elizabeth. Elizabeth was probably no less a pariah in that society. For the Hebrews immortality was achieved through land and progeny. Without the latter the future was bleak. When one adds to this the fact that, at that time, women were simply pieces of property, her response was astonishing.
The angel’s promise was affirmed when Mary went to see Elizabeth, and, when Mary greeted her, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped. Elizabeth then affirmed Mary’s blessedness. Mary’s response was the powerful “Magnificat.” When studied that lovely passage is not some soft, downy proclamation, but one of intensity that, in hindsight, reflects the reality of Jesus’ life.
The faith that Mary illustrated then and in the years to come, is an awesome model for each of us as we await the coming of the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. Further, just as Mary bore the infant, we are in relationship to Jesus when we allow the power of God to enter into our hearts and souls. This is not easy for, as Sandy pointed out last week, we are fraught with anxieties and concerns. To allow God to enter in, to make ourselves vulnerable and wholly trusting is no easy task. There is, however, no other way to receive Him.
We are faced with a dilemma – our charge, like that of Mary, is to do God’s will. Jesus made it pretty clear as to what that means…to love God with our heart, soul and mind and to love one another as ourselves. That implies action, reaching out, showing in our lives what we profess in our worship and in our words. However, that activity has its inception in the silence and prayer of our own hearts. It is nearly impossible to have one without the other. For some of us, contemplation and prayer is natural – whereas for others activity is more the norm. As Christians, however, we are to have both…they flow from one another.
Like Mary, we are to seek out those who will support and understand us, just as we are called to do the same for others. Once again, our faith is not rooted in individualism, but is a collaborative effort of the entire body. Each of us has different gifts, gifts that are essential to our dual purpose of prayer and activity. We could not have fed 18,000 meals at Charlie’s Place, provided 80 turkey dinners or presents for 233 people without the prayers, activity and support of one another. Elizabeth’s presence gave Mary the wisdom and understanding that enabled her to return to her home and to face her betrothed, Joseph. One can imagine that, because God assured him in a dream that Mary was a virgin, that Joseph was the easy one! Can you imagine what the community thought? It must have been much like the little girl’s assessment of the response of princess’s mother.
As we wait, once again, for the coming of the Christ into our lives, let us pray and make ourselves vulnerable as a community and as individuals. Let us open our hearts to this wondrous miracle so that on Christmas we may experience the incredible joy of the presence of Christ within us and around us. AMEN