Luke 1: 26-38
Pastor Chris Tweitmann
Depending on when you read this, another national day of thanksgiving will be just before or right behind you. There either will be a turkey feast in your future or the annual holiday meal leftover sandwich to enjoy. That treasured after Thanksgiving dinner nap might be in your future or you’ll be buckling up for the chaotic madness that is Black Friday. Wherever you find yourself as you head into this weekend, I hope you are excited to enter into this blessed season of anticipation and preparation. No, I’m not talking about Christmas. I’m speaking of Advent.
“Advent” is Latin for “a coming or an arrival.” It is a period of time Christians throughout the ages have designated for getting ready to properly and fully celebrate Christmas. In contrast to our typical frantic holiday rush to December 25th, Advent creates a space for slowing down and for reflection. A lot of decoratively wrapped packages change hands this time of year. Advent helps us to be ready and to focus on the greatest gift we have received that also happens to be the greatest gift we have to share with others – the gift of God coming down to be with us and to act for us through the person of Jesus Christ.
As we begin this season of Advent, we will undertake the journey to Christmas – to the birth of Jesus – through the eyes of Mary, His mother.
Mary is a very misunderstood woman among Christians. In some corners of the Church, namely the Catholic branch, Mary has been exalted to a deified status bordering on idolatry. So much so, many Catholics pray directly to her. In medieval times, some theologians even began to talk of a Quaternity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit and Mother) in speaking of God rather than the Trinity.
The Protestant response to such indulgences has been to ignore Mary at best, and to reject her at worst. For those raised in the Protestant or wider non-denominational traditions have been warned against giving Mary too much attention or credit, as doing so would take away from one’s singular devotion to Christ. As a result, most Protestants know far more about what they don’t believe about Mary than about what the Bible actually teaches about her.
While, of course, Mary is not to be worshipped or prayed to, her presence in the Gospel cannot be ignored or disregarded. The figure of Mary looms large at the heart of this holy season. How odd would the annual Christmas pageant be – the Nativity set displayed in one’s home – if Mary was not present? She’s too important, too compelling to be overlooked. If you think about it, we know more about Mary than we do about almost everyone else in the New Testament — except for Jesus, Peter, Paul and John.
As we prepare for Christmas – for Christ to come anew in our lives – through this season of Advent, we are going to see there’s something about Mary. Yes, Mary was a sinner saved by grace like the rest of us and yet she played a unique role in the story of salvation. One could argue without Mary, there would be no Christmas.
However, Mary’s role goes far beyond the crèche to which we so often confine her. The record of the New Testament is clear; from beginning to the very end, the mission of Mary in her own life was to witness to the glory of her Son. She was the first person to say “Yes” to Jesus and therefore she was the first disciple of Christ. Mary followed her son, Jesus, all the way to the Cross – not just as a mother but as a disciple – even after His closest followers abandoned Him.
Join us this Advent season as we seek not to worship Mary but to better appreciate and learn from her in her devotion to the Lord. Mary’s role in the Gospel is unique but the contours of her pilgrimage of faith are the same as our own. Her “Yes” to Christ is the ongoing invitation and challenge within the space and time of our daily lives. Therefore, let us strip away the many layers of theology, piety and politics we’ve buried Mary under. Together let us glean from the powerful witness to her life of faith and faithfulness to Jesus – and to God be the glory!
O come let us adore Him!