“How can this be?” There are many who will say “it can’t” or “it wasn’t” but then Mary is the only one who can say for sure. If Luke is half the historian my father is he will have checked his sources and I don’t doubt Mary could have been one of them. Of course we don’t just talk about the virgin birth we confess it and even though that might sound like the same thing it isn’t. Confessions are not explained; they are confessed which is to say, believed. Not like Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy though some would say the virgin birth is a fairytale. Confessions are not constitutions though some would make them equally binding. But the Christian confession of faith ddoesn'tso much bind us to a set of beliefs as it identifies us as those who adhere to a particular story of what God is about in our world. This is the story of “God with us” which is “God for us” in every space and place and time from before the beginning into the forever future. “Let it be to me according to your word.” Mary entered the story in a time and place where people threw rocks at unwed pregnant teenagers until they were dead. (God help us those places still exist) She accepted what would likely lead to her death because she trusted her life was in God’s hands. “Let it be to me according to your word.” There is no greater statement of faith in the scriptures and though she is venerated as “Theotokos” (God-bearer) her faith was worthy of praise even before the Spirit overshadowed her and the little Lord Jesus lay asleep in her womb. Faith bears God into the world even now so that you and I enter Mary’s story, which is God’s story, whenever in the face of an uncertain future we say, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
The secret kept hidden for long ages but now disclosed never-the-less remains a mystery. God in human flesh, not just as a disguise for the Divine but the Holy “in, with and under” the profane; "the immortal, invisible, God only wise" born into the little Lord Jesus who cried for Mary’s milk before he fell asleep on the hay. A mystery, yes, but not one beyond our ability to comprehend for it was love that came down and graced our world with beauty and truth and wherever compassion and mercy are made known God is fully present. But humans prefer gods of fire and smoke, of rigid rules and regulations, and by that I mean gods who are more predictable and in many ways more easily manipulated. This God brings about the obedience of faith by entering our reality, the good, the bad and the mundane. So that if we truly want to be about what God is about we have to be more connected to each other and not just the ones who are like us. Touch the leper. Eat with the tax collector. Welcome the sinner. The reverse is true as well as Jesus let a woman scorned bathe his feet with tears and another quench his thirst and still another clutch his robe. He called dim disciples to follow him and deposited the kingdom into their hands expecting the mystery to be continually revealed in and through them. And we who have been strengthened by the Gospel they proclaimed are obedient to the faith whenever we reveal the mystery to the little piece of the planet we inhabit.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
The “great thing God has done for me” made Mary great with child without her betrothed’s participation or consent. That is not normally a cause for rejoicing even if the child hidden in her secret place was the Messiah. But let’s be clear. Mary is not a member of the ruling class and the “servant Israel” of whom she sings is hardly a significant player on the world’s stage. But Mary is naturally naïve and believes in, or at least hopes for, the promise of God come true. And come to think of it even the secular songs of this season seem wonderfully naïve in a world so full of woe. “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” There is more power in hope than in any other human emotion save love although they are so closely related as to be the same thing. And miracles, like songs that imagine God come down to lift up the lowly, do not need to be fully realized to be more than true. When Mary’s boy was full grown the mighty she imagined cast down from their thrones lifted him up on a cross until crying out in agony he breathed his last. But the song she sung when he moved in her womb could not be stilled and the refrain of His resurrection was just the prelude to the chorus that is sung even now in eternity. God has done great things indeed.
Monday, December 15, 2014
David may believe his desire to upgrade God from tent to temple is all about God but truth is David is embarrassed that Israel’s God is housed in such a humble abode. More to the point, such a humbly housed God is a poor reflection on the new king on the block which is why David needs God to move uptown into a temple of gold and stone and cedar. We lust after bigger buildings and consider churches that house ten thousand more significant than "two or three gathered in my name" who love the Lord with their whole lives. The church may be built to glorify God but it magnifies the power and prestige of the humans that build it. If bigger is better why did God choose a manger in a stable and an unwed teenage girl to birth the Messiah into a world that would despise his teaching so much it would attempt to shut him up by nailing him to wood? The upgrade God desires is not a church made of stone but a permanent dwelling place in your heart.
Friday, December 12, 2014
If the Pharisees were playing a game of hangman with John they’d be losing but truth is they don’t care about his answers as long as they can hang him. A voice crying in the wilderness always means trouble for those who color their religion within the lines and questions like “who are you?” are a set up for a take down. But John doesn't care about their questions because he knows he is pointing to something greater than anyone can imagine. And if we believe Matthew’s account of John’s question for Jesus (are you the one or should we look for another?) even the voice in the wilderness wondered if he got it right. That’s because John was also in the dark even though he was tasked with pointing to the light. He thought himself unworthy of untying Jesus’ sandals while Jesus considered washing his disciple’s feet the true measure of a master. That’s not to say John and Jesus weren't on the same page when it came to calling out the Pharisees and teachers of the law – You brood of vipers – but Jesus does something John could not imagine the Messiah would do. He dies. But the light of Jesus was not extinguished by death rather it lit up hell like a Christmas tree and banished the power of darkness and death once and for all.