Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Our journey through the season of Advent to the coming of Christmas – of Jesus born anew in our lives and world has only just begun. Last Sunday, our chosen guide for this annual pilgrimage was revealed. It is none other than Mary, the mother of Jesus.
As I highlighted last week, save for this time of year, Mary is too often forgotten in many Protestant and non-denominational branches of the Christian faith. You won’t hear about her in too many sermons. Her name doesn’t come up all that often in weekly Bible studies. Back in the day, when churches were named after biblical figures, there were lots of St. Andrew’s, St. Luke’s or St. Mark’s, you’d be hard pressed to find a St. Mary’s – outside of any local Catholic churches.
This is both ironic and strange given that, biblically, we know more about Mary than we do most of the apostles or Gospel writers. Nonetheless, Mary’s presence in the story of salvation tends to remain hidden. When and if we do talk about her, we use words like virgin, mother and vessel. As is often the case for women, we focus only on her body, her gender, and her child.
Despite how we treat her, Mary is not some incidental and ancillary figure in the Gospel. She is the mother of the Son of God. Long before our spirits were filled and enlivened by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Spirit of the Lord came upon the person of Mary and through her DNA, her particular and imperfect personhood, enfleshed the Word of God.
But even before she was the mother of our Lord, Mary was the first disciple of Christ. Too often Mary’s agency is recast as obedience, the faith given to her changed to obligation by her, her body stripped of choice. Yet when the angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her that she is to conceive a child, Mary says, “Let it be.” She is the very first to say, “Yes” to Jesus and follow Him through her willingness to become His mother.
The Lord has faith in Mary and gives her the faith she needs. In her imperfect willingness and out of her limited perception of what would come next, Mary embraces the faith placed in her as her own. She embraces the child she bears as her Son and as her Lord.
As we’ll see this Sunday, such faith takes Mary somewhere. Contrary to how we often present her in the pictures on our Christmas cards and ornaments, she does not remain passively waiting for the next nine months. Mary is not stationary. Immediately, she is on the move.
In this week’s scripture we read about Mary’s trip to see her cousin Elizabeth. Even though she is on in years and had been formerly unable to conceive, Elizabeth is six months pregnant with a child of her own – a child given to her by the Lord’s hand. Mary has learned all of this in the midst of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to her about her own pregnancy.
Join us this Sunday as we look more closely at Mary’s decision to visit Elizabeth. Together we will learn there is more to this encounter than meets the eye. Typically we jump in this scene right to Mary’s prophetic song (something we will explore in two weeks!) but there is much for us to glean in the initial engagement and interaction of these two women. What happens between them is more than a simple greeting. It is a reflection of our calling as disciples of Jesus and a picture of what community in Christ is intended to be.