In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! God is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.— Luke 1:26-31
In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”—Luke 1: 39-42
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for God has looked with favor on the lowliness of God’s servant. ... God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; God had filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.”—Luke 1: 46-48, 52-53
“With haste” Mary went to visit her relative Elizabeth. Mary had just found out, from an angel, that she was pregnant. And the angel told her that Elizabeth, her older cousin, was pregnant too. So it must have been a comfort to be with Elizabeth, another woman, a relative, someone else who was pregnant, during an undoubtedly scary time.
Mary was in big trouble—by society’s standards. She was to be married soon to Joseph. To outsiders, she was simply knocked up outside the boundary’s of what was acceptable. Joseph wasn’t involved. By the law of their society, Joseph could have Mary stoned to death.
Keep in mind that Mary was very young, maybe about 13. She was living in an occupied land. Empire seeped into her everyday life. Violence of all sorts, killing, rape, extortion, were common. She was not powerful. She had no voice in this culture. And from this context, perhaps afraid, and running for her life, she seeks the comfort of another woman.
And Elizabeth smiles and embraces her, and calls her blessed. From this embrace of blessing, she remembers the words of the angel, “God is with you.” And Mary’s soul sours. She sings a song of liberation. It is a song for all who experience oppression. For all who have been forced to live with the stares of others brought on from breaking society’s sexual norms. Even though she lives in the belly of the empire, she holds within her hope. And her song, can become our song, and our hope, too. God will bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly. God’s mercy is great. God is with us. God will bring life where there was shame.
Let us be quick to remember our blessing. Let us be quick to bless. And never forget that in the reign of God the voiceless give birth to hope and sing songs of liberation that bring life to the world.
Sweet mother of us all, only you know the true potential that is carried deep within each of your children. May we live with pregnant expectancy in the coming weeks, as we wait and work for your justice.
Prayer for lighting the fourth candle.
May we remember our blessings, and be a blessing to others.
Activities for this week
- Attend a Christmas service. Many churches have candlelight services, or reflective services that can help create a space of calm and beauty in the midst of a stressful season. Join the Living will host a candle light service on Dec. 21 at 6:30 pm at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church 545 S. 5th AVE, Tucson. The church will also be open for quiet meditation from 4 pm until 6:30 pm. We’ll offer a meal to share together at 5:30 pm. Come for any of the evening. See the blog entry below for more about the service.
- Remember those whose sexuality makes them second class citizens. Women as well as people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (just to name a few) are often demeaned or discriminated against because of issues related to sexuality. If this resonates with your own experience, consider how Mary’s story may speak to you. If you aren’t already an ally to the LGBT community, consider becoming one and becoming more involved at wingspan.org.
- Give money away. A movement called Advent Conspiracy invites people to give more money away at Christmas. If you have money to give, consider helping build water wells in Africa (www.water.cc), or helping the Community Food Bank in Tucson, which last we heard, was so overwhelmed with trying to meet people’s basic food needs, it did not have enough resources to provide Christmas boxes to families this year.