Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bethany Bullet - December 14, 2010

Have yourself a merry little Christmas…

Even in the midst of that which is called the most wonderful time of the year it is easy to lose the merry. To aid us in being merry, with or without the singing, the Scripture directs our attention to Mary’s song, “My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

In all honesty, I must admit that in circumstances like Mary’s (obviously no one but Mary has ever experienced a virgin birth) each of us knows what it is to experience unexpected, unprecedented, and life altering events; events that bring with them “Hurray’s” and “Oy Vey’s.” I unlike Mary am more prone to find the “Oy” than the joy. I seem to sing a different, yet all too familiar, tune of my own: the “Woe is me!” melody, “You can’t be serious!” ditty, or the “Bleep, bleep, bleep!” chorus. When unexpected, unprecedented, or life altering events come my way and bring with them heartache as well as a handshake, rejoicing is not the first thing I’m heard singing.

You couldn’t blame Mary had she tuned up that negative band, could you? Think about what she is getting:

  1. In trouble with her fiancé. Luke doesn’t record Joseph’s reaction to this news; we have to read Matthew to get that. Do you think Mary needed to read the Gospel account to find out? All she needed to read was Joseph’s face, right? How do you think her husband-to-be is going to feel about her pregnancy with a child that is not his? I don’t think she expects him to be teaming with joy at the news she is expecting - do you?

    Recall what the angel said to Mary when he visited her to share this news. Never in that conversation did Gabriel say, “… and don’t worry about Joseph; an appearance to him is the next thing on my ‘to do’ list.”

    You couldn’t blame Mary had she sang the “Woe is me!” melody could you? Think about what she is getting:
  2. Public shame, ridicule and humiliation for herself and her family. This story begins with Mary hurrying off to her cousin’s home in the country. I’m sure it was a joy and a comfort to go and see someone else who had been visited like herself, by both an angel and an embryo. Yet, I’m also equally sure that this journey wasn’t discouraged by her family. They had been trying on dresses, visiting caterers, tasting cakes, picking out invitations, and finalizing guest lists – now the bride is expecting, and it isn’t the groom’s. How do you expect the small community to respond? What song shall they sing - Silent Night or Go Tell It on the Mountain? Would this be kept a quiet private matter for them to work out or would it be the talk of the town?

    God bothered to send an angel to her, as well as to her cousin and her cousin’s husband (to be continued as we find out in next week’s reading); by Christmas Eve and Epiphany day we will know that He even took time to send angels to shepherds and wise men too. How much trouble would it have been to send one to her parents, to her neighbors, to her pastor, or maybe even to those who sat in the pew with her? Instead, what happens is she is sent off to her cousin’s.

    You couldn’t blame Mary if she took up that all time hit, “Why, Lord, Why - Why Me?” tune. Think about what she is getting:
  3. Hardship…Not just that of being a new bride or being a new mother but being a new bride and a new mother at the same time. Though that all might qualify as hardship. Not only was she a target for gossip & rumor, her child would be a target for exile & murder. They would be forced to journey to Bethlehem while she was nearly due. Then due to the rage of a madman king they would need to flee to Egypt while the child was just a toddler so he wouldn’t become a victim of this ruler.

    You couldn’t blame her if Mary’s song sounded more like “My soul is in anguish, my heart is melting, and my spirit cries out.”
  4. After all that will be the song her son shall sing one day; a song known as the 22nd Psalm whose great refrain is “My God, My God, how you have forsaken me.” In the words of the angel, she is getting a baby; in the words of Simeon, she is getting a sword to pierce her soul.

Maybe Mary just doesn’t get what she is getting? How can all this be on her plate? Yet, what resonates is a hymn of joy.

It doesn’t in my story. Believe it or not, my story is a bit like hers - so is yours for that matter. Think about those things that Mary was getting again.

  • The prospect of divorce and public humiliation through the actions of a spouse or a child or the FATHER.
  • An unwelcomed move, loss of job and home, collapse of future security, rejection by those closest to you, as well as unwarranted, ridiculous & wicked demands by those who rule over you.
  • A parent who outlives a child and another who very well probably died before the child was fully grown.

Sad enough if this is just the stuff of this story, but it isn’t is it? This is the stuff of our stories too. This is the stuff that forms the material to why the song in question was written to begin with. This is why Mary gave birth, that through her Child’s sorrow, shame, and suffering we might ‘get it’ ourselves.

Mary rejoices! She teaches us the key to joy in the midst of “Oy.” Mary finds the joy not in what she is getting but in what God is doing. Joy, real joy and true merriment, is found not in our experience but in God’s advent:

His entrance into this world as Mary’s Babe to redeem it completely and His return to this world as Mary’s Lord to restore it fully.

Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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