Christmas Eve, 2014
“But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”.
O Mary, such words to treasure in your heart – a heart that is no stranger to fear and darkness – a heart which has been taught that apart from your father, and now your betrothed, you have no identity; A heart that has been filled with the enslaving notion that you are more property than person; a heart that has known the fear of conceiving a child out of wedlock in a world that would kill you for that. And now this?
Mary O precious Mary, how could you have known that such a thing would happen to you? You, who have nothing. You, living in a community of migrant workers called Nazareth. A place, like you, so small, so inconsequential it shows up no one’s map; least of all Caesar’s.
Caesar Augustus, whose very name means “revered”; the one who calls himself “son of god”, the giver of royal edicts, so mighty, so god-like, whose soldiers pass by your town everyday never even casting a glance in your direction; as if you were invisible. As if you never existed.
But exist, you do. Though just a teen, you are the keystone connecting the history of God’s promised salvation to a future where those promises are fulfilled for all the world. Though just a teen, your lips have responded to God’s grace with scandalous trust and a wisdom that spans the ages, rejoicing in your God, and proclaiming God’s reality of mercy where “the mighty are brought down… the lowly are lifted up and the hungry are filled with good things.”
Your teenaged heart and body have made room for God. Space: holy space has been created in which you – you of all people Mary – have until this night kept God safe in your womb. Your body has done the impossible. Your body has nourished God’s. Your body has kept God safe, providing all that is needed for God to do this new thing; this new thing whereby God takes on our flesh and blood.
“To you is born this night in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord”
Words from on high, as Heaven bends to touch the earth this night. Words of “great joy” yet words that cut like a knife, interrupting that most intimate space between mother and newborn. Though filled with great promise, these words are a painful reminder that this baby does not belong to you alone; that this night does not belong to you alone. For this is the One whom prophets of old foretold.
This babe in your arms is the long-awaited Messiah who has been “anointed to bring good news to the poor; to proclaim release to the captives; to let the oppressed go free”
This babe in your arms is the long-awaited Messiah and yet he will never occupy palaces or seats of power.
This babe in your arms whom angels adore and shepherds flock to see this night will one day enrage the religious and political powers-that-be by announcing that God looks with favor upon and is found within the displaced, the marginalized, the refugee, the persecuted, and the occupied.
O Mary, how can you even begin to fathom what happens in the years to come? These eyes that gaze up at you in trust and love tonight will one day gaze with compassion upon thousands who hunger on a Galilean hillside. The eyes of an infant fixated on your tender maternal face this night will one day look with pity and love upon the face of a synagogue leader whose daughter is near death. The cries of a hungry newborn will one day turn to laments over Jerusalem, who “kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it”. The coos and cackles of your newborn this night will one day turn to words of forgiveness for those who torture and execute him on the hardwood of a Cross.
Mary, O precious Mary, your tears of joy this night will one day turn to inconsolable cries of a mother who loses her child to violence and death.
And yet God will not leave you there in the darkness and terror of grief. God will not leave you tormented in your own personal hell. For not only do angels tell shepherds in a field to “fear not”, but your own son, when he is raised from the dead, will utter those same hope-filled words to those mired in grief, despair, and fear.
Mary, the babe in your arms though found with you here on this holy night, will one day be found in other places. Wherever God’s children are sleeping in the cold, fleeing from persecution and violence, or being born as refugees, we find your child, our Savior proclaiming God’s good news of great joy. “Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom”.