We began Advent on Nov. 27 anticipating the 2nd Coming of Christ. The following weeks, we heard from John the Baptist and other prophets and messengers about the need to prepare the way of the Lord, to be ready for God's reality breaking into our lives and into our world. We end our season of Advent with Mary, to whom the angel Gabriel came & spoke to her... "Greetings favored one. The Lord is with you."
It is Mary's, Yes – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word", that allows God's reality to break into the world that Christmas long ago. This is not some starry eyed teenager but one who by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit humbled herself to accept the gift of the Christ Child. From this, Mary would give us a song, one we call the Magnificat, a song about the power tables being turned, about the lowly being lifted up, which she herself had experienced.
Mary’s yes to God and God’s choosing her is important. It is as one preacher said: “Two things seem clear when God chooses someone for a really important role. God usually chooses someone weak and insignificant in society - and God chooses that person to die.We who prepare to come to the manger again this week are challenged to have Mary's words and life in our hearts and on our lips; to understand the yes that she gave, that our hearts could be ready to say yes and be God's servants in this world...
As a young girl Mary would not have been taught to read - young boys, yes, but not young girls. Ancient peasant cultures counted females, including wives, among a man's possessions, along with slaves, oxen and donkeys. The selection of Mary's husband would be entirely her parents' affair. She could not refuse their choice. As a female Mary would be allowed to enter the synagogue, but had to remain in the back or in the balcony, behind a grill. If perchance she did learn to read, she was not allowed to read the Torah in the synagogue service. But God chooses the weak and insignificant in the eyes of some, to do God's great work.
Mary was also chosen to die. There are many ways of dying. Mary did her dying in shame and pain, as a refugee in Egypt. God called Mary to the shame of becoming an unwed mother . . . all of this asked of a girl of twelve or thirteen. And her deaths were just beginning. As a widow she would watch her son die the painful death reserved for the scum of society on a cross.
Mary had no role in Jesus' public life. Hers was a hidden life. But Mary, as God's secret, became one of the most influential, celebrated women in history . . . This secret, weak, unlettered Mother of God, who is our mother, is the wisdom of God, the power of God. [Rev. Killian McDowell, O.S.B., in a sermon at St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minn., January 1, 2005, reprinted in The Abbey Banner, Spring 2005.]
So as you sing the carols this week, as you ready your nativity scenes, as you look out on this beautiful land of ours, ready you heart to say yes to Jesus at Christmas, to say yes to the angel, to say yes to God, for we are to bear Christ to this world just as Mary once did. Amen.