Women of Advent:
Mary, Mother of God
God in us: a life of faith
A young unwed girl living in a small village that has nothing of which to boast was an unlikely choice to be the vessel for the incarnation of the Christ and an unlikely candidate to be the mother of God—except that God delights to use what is ordinary, common, and overlooked.
An angel appears to this young girl by the name of Mary, announcing the favor of God and a startling mission she is to participate in, namely bearing the promised one. In a stunning act of courage and boldness, Mary yields her body and will to this divine assignment. Vulnerable trust led humanity into disaster, and it is vulnerable trust that will bring about its redemption. God chose to come among us, to take on embodied form, to become flesh and blood. This incarnation begins in the womb of a woman.
I think about Mary as she went through that pregnancy. I wonder if she stroked her belly, faithfully repeating the prayers of her ancestors. I’m sure she had moments of doubt and uncertainty, moments when she wanted to run as far as possible to escape her new normal. I’m sure that her encounter changed her trajectory and life plans. I marvel at her bravery walking through marketplaces full of gossip and watering wells of lowered glances. What would it have been like to look the one you have been promised to in the face and tell them that you are pregnant, knowing full well they have the power to have you executed for this indiscretion? I wonder what it was like to have that same man commit to protecting you anyway and that God told him all about it too? I wonder what it was like to carry the Christ child? Was it different to the regular feelings of pregnancy that many women experience, or was it so gloriously ordinary that it served as a reminder that God is in those places too? I wonder if Mary had morning sickness, and with each dry retch she reminded herself of the promise God gave her to just get through. I wonder if with each passing day and new stretch mark, Mary marvelled at the growing mystery inside her. I’m sure as those around her accused her of unfaithfulness, Mary wondered why Israel’s promise had to be fulfilled this way. I wonder what it was like for Mary to travel far, to be a stranger unsure of where to stay in an unfamiliar town? I wonder what it was like to be responsible for birthing the Christ child into the world? The pangs of birth upon her, I wonder did she even know the full extent of the great joys and pains this child would bring her as years went by? Did she even fathom the ways that centuries of Christians to come would honor her female body for its mothering of the Christ child?
There is no greater mystery than this. That God came among us in the little cries of a newborn, having spent months previous growing in the womb of Mary. That the God of the universe needed to be nurtured, mothered, and cared for sounds stupendous, but nonetheless true. God chose to come among us in a humble and vulnerable way, dependent on others for survival. There is no greater act of love and solidarity with the human condition than this. What kind of God does this? I would suggest a God whose very essence is self-giving love. The incarnation of the Christ reveals something important to us of what God is truly like.
And the glorious truth is that God is not just out somewhere distant in the far sky, God is constantly at work in the world, partnering with the creation to bring about change. Like a midwife that prepares to bring new life into the world, God is there in all of the beauty and the struggle of our daily existence. May we live by faith comforted by the sure knowledge that God is both in us and among us.
Mary, mother of God, how noble a task to you was given! We bless you for your faithfulness to accomplish all that was given you to do.
How noble a task is ours to also become alive to the vision of God in us and the world around us. May we be the faithful that are pregnant with the life and love of God, ready to birth the presence of Christ into the world around us.
Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. Close your eyes, you may want to place your hands over your heart or in your lap. Take a deep breath in and then release slowly. Repeat. Now, imagine that as you breathe in, you are physically breathing in God. Sounds kind of weird, but I invite you to sit with the uncomfortableness of the thought. As you breathe out, imagine God being breathed out in those molecules. Continue to take a few more deep breaths practicing the same thing. Allow the love of God to enter into the deepest corners of your being, and then allow this love to escape from you gently and kindly. As you go about your day, allow your breathing to be a reminder of the love and presence of God.