In many of our Advent and Christmas activities, liturgy, and traditions in the church, we tend to focus on the baby Jesus, the Christ child coming into the world. And don't get me wrong, we should. His birth in humility, and the vulnerability of God choosing to come into the world as a tiny human, to experience all that humanity experiences, and no less born in a stable amidst cows and sheep, is the center of this season.
But I want to shift our focus to another important person in the story: to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The mother who, like I'm sure many mothers reading this can relate, frantically rushed around Jerusalem after the boy Jesus left her and Joseph's care only to find him preaching in the temple; the mother who prepared Jesus' body with spices and whom Jesus entrusted to John at his death; and most of all, the woman who said "yes" to God when some random angel appeared to her young, poor teenage self and told her she would give birth to the Savior of the whole world.
Can you imagine? Mary was the age of many of our KPUMC youth, risking everything to get on board with what God was doing not only in her life, but for all of creation. I think we Methodists could learn or thing or two from our Catholic friends about the importance of venerating this woman who birthed our incarnate God.
During the 4th week of Advent, one of the lectionary readings is the song, the Magnificat, that Mary sings after her cousin Elizabeth's womb (where John the Baptist was growing) leaps during a visit from Mary.
"My soul magnifies the Lord," she says. "And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant... He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate."
In other words, "God noticed me.... even me, poor and afraid, a woman living in a patriarchal society of humble means. God chose me for this task, which says so much about who God is and who God cares for."
Mary's song is a powerful word for us in this season of political turmoil, of allegations of sexual misconduct left and right, of the mighty in their thrones who exploit the poor and subjugate those of lowly status. God sees and validates the experiences of those who are mistreated and powerless.
What an invitation for us to say yes when we feel least able to do so, to thank God for God's presence in our lives no matter how inadequate we may feel at times, and to honor the women around us who have said yes so that beautiful and holy things could be born into this world.
As we continue our Advent journey together, I pray that Mary's words might bring you comfort, challenge, and serenity.