As I read today’s scripture I am struck by several things. This scripture, like my own schedule this week before Christmas, has too much going on. There are so many important lessons in this scripture, or at least possible lessons, that the temptation is to try to wring every bit of meaning and activity out of it. And in the process, I risk doing a poor job at all of them. That is always the risk at this time of year, we try to do so much, to wring every moment of joy, every perfect Christmas activity or experience out of each moment and each day, that we risk not savoring or appreciating any of them. And so I will narrow my focus in this scripture to just a few things.
First, Mary could not face it alone. God had asked much of her—that she would be an unwed mother, who well might lose her fiancé as a result of the pregnancy, that she would be the mother to the Messiah, the long awaited savior of Israel, and that she would allow the babe to grow inside her until the time came for him to be delivered. Facing all of this, Mary could not do it alone. She had to seek out Elizabeth who was facing a similar situation. Elizabeth was not carrying the Messiah, but Elizabeth was carrying a child also long foretold and much awaited. And in the presence of another who understood, Mary sings. Mary’s song of rejoice reflects what the Messiah was supposed to do: to bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly, feed the hungry, and to send the rich away empty. Mary sings of these things as present realities, things that have already happened—God has done them.
God sometimes asks much of us too. I realize that I am, like Mary, asked to let the Messiah grow inside of me, not as a baby to be born, but to grow inside me so others can see the face of Christ. As a disciple, I am to grow in my faith, to let that part of me that is in the image of God, that part of me that is my place in the body of Christ, to let that part inside me grow and grow, to let Jesus grow inside me, until there is new birth.
And there is much risk. Following God’s will for us requires risking that others will reject us. When we do what God asks of us, instead of what the world expects, we risk rejection even by those closest to us. Being a Christian is counter-cultural. As Christians we are the ones call to bring down the powerful, lift up the lowly, feed the hungry and send the rich away empty. These are not society’s values, they are God’s. Mary sang of radical change as if it had already occurred. But in this Advent 2011, we can see that there is still so much to do. And yet, the babe is growing and preparing to be born, in each of us.
And that brings me back to my first point—Mary could not face it alone. Neither can we. This Advent, put on your list, along with the other many things to do, time to gather with others to sing, to rejoice, to support each other as we prepare for the radical change that comes with carrying the Christ child inside.
Rev. Ann Thomas is the senior pastor at Griffith United Methodist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she is working to renew and revitalize this downtown congregation through spiritual renewal, social justice work and missions. A recent graduate of Claremont School of Theology, Ann practiced law in Las Vegas for 18 years before entering full-time ministry and seeking ordination. She was commissioned in June 2011 and is seeking full ordination in The United Methodist Church.