21st December – Luke 1:26-35
I recently heard a vox pop of a little girl saying shyly: ‘I always wanted to be Mary for the whole of my life.’ I, on the other hand, have a not inconsiderable fear of being chosen for a role; as a child, the words ‘Can we have a volunteer’ would see me quite literally take refuge between seatsat the panto. So I cannot imagine ‘wanting to be Mary,’ either in role or reality. In her “yes”, she opens the door to a world of love and pain. She does not know, cannot imagine how her heart will be broken.
The treasuring up, the watching, the worrying, the losing of him, first to the Temple, then to his ministry, then to the cross. Gabriel tells her not to be afraid, that she is favoured, blessed. I might have looked back on these words later with a sceptic’s hindsight. There must have been many moments where it did not feel like a blessing to have been Jesus’ mother, but the Luke text shows no such distrust or resentment, only a courageous openness to the possibilities of following God which I find arresting.
This ideal of motherhood, the one capable of bearing her own disgrace and sorrow, of watching unflinching, of being present at birth and death, leaves me feeling utterly inadequate. The crux of the whole passage for me lies in Mary’s understanding and acceptance in faith that nothing is impossible with God. It is the very seeming impossibility of the Christmas narrative which makes me cry at every Nativity, every schmaltzy film or advert of the season. The gap between actual and possible challenges us that there is no substitution for our own experience of God. How will we know if the impossible is possible if we don’t say yes?
Father of all, thank you for Mary’s “yes”, may it help us to say yes to you. Take our fearfulness and transform it into faithfulness, courageous obedience and willingness. Thank you that you did not leave Mary without the reassurance of Gabriel, the comfort of Elizabeth, and the faithful company of Joseph. Help us to be your willing servants in the detail and in the big pictures of our lives, leaving you room to bring the seemingly impossible into the realm of the possible, in a narrative that reflects your glory.