Blessed Like Mary
December 24, 2017 / Advent 4 / Pastor Richard Holmer
First Reading: 2 Samuel 7: 1-11, 16 / Second Reading: Romans 16: 25-27 Gospel : Luke 1: 26-38
Blessed Like Mary
One way to understand Mary, the mother of Jesus, is that she was exceptional, extraordinary uniquely qualified. Some go so far as to say that Mary was without sin. Certainly she had a unique roe to fill—Jesus could have but one mother, after all.
Another way to see Mary is not as the exception, but as an example for all. We can see her not as the exception, but as an example for us all. We can see her not as one so completely different from us that we set her apart and admire her uniqueness—but rather as one who is not unlike us; someone we can emulate. By observing how God worked through Mary, we can see a way that God might also work in and through us.
Let’s consider how today’s gospel story unfolds.
- For starters, notice that Mary is blessed before or promising to do anything. She didn’t go looking for God. She didn’t volunteer without being asked. The angel Gabriel came to Mary. And before Mary says or does anything, Gabriel announces a blessing: “Greetings favored one. The Lord is with you.” Blessings are never earned or deserved—a blessing is always a gift, pure grace. The blessing may be as simple as this: she is noticed by Bod and beloved by God. That’s quite a lot, actually.
- Now Mary is perplexed by this greeting she receives from Gabriel. Of course she was! She must have been wondering: “What have I done to deserve God’s attention and favor?” And the answer is NOTHING! Blessings are by nature un
- Mary is still wondering, questioning as Gabriel describes God’s plan for her: You will conceive and bear a son. You will name him Jesus. He will be great, the Son of the Most High. Of his kingdom there will be no end. Mary politely asks: “How can this be?” We both know I am a virgin.
Gabriel patiently explains: This is to be the work of the Holy Spirit. And he offers up an example to prove his point. “Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son.” She was supposedly barren – but she’s now six months pregnant! And then the clincher: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
There’s the real pivot point. The question is not what we think is possible for us. The question is: do we believe that anything is possible with God? The challenge is to get beyond the limits of our own experiences and expectations – and to place our trust in the God who is always doing the unexpected.
Mary accepted the challenge: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord,” she said. “Let it be with me according to your word.” In other words: “Let’s do this!” she opened herself to a new and unexpected future. She accepted a role for which she had little knowledge or preparation. Trusting that she was blessed by God, she committed her life to be a blessing. What’s distinctive about Mary is that she trusted that God would do what seemed impossible for her to do.
This is what you and I can learn from Mary. We don’t need to have unique talents and abilities. God has always relied on ordinary, unqualified persons to do his work. What’s called for is faith. We can listen as God speaks to us through his Word. We can trust that God is with us, and that God has blessed us. We can remind one another that with God, nothing will be impossible.
Imagine for a moment where you will go in these coming days: What will you do, whom you will see. In such ordinary circumstances, consider how God has blessed you – so that you might be a blessing to others. Who needs to hear an encouraging or consoling word? Can you be patient and kind with a difficult relative? Whom might you need to forgive? Are you ready to go out of your way to help someone?
Know that you are blessed already.
Be open to opportunities to bless others.
Trust that God is with you.
With Mary, learn to say: “Let it be as God wills.”