Today, I want to share some thoughts about Mary, the mother of the Lord. I’d like us to reflect on several ways she is like us and on ways—one way in particular—she is unlike us.
The story of the ‘Annunciation’, the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, is a wonderful story. Artists have pondered on this and given us much to ponder on in turn. I love this picture of the Annunciation, which is from a Christmas card sent to our family from a wonderful woman who sends an original card to her friends every year. Her name is Teresa Jordan and she lives here in Brisbane. This is her card for 2014:
I love it!
The angel is holding out a lily, Mary’s symbol of purity, to Mary. Mary is riding her bike (yes, I know they didn’t have bikes 2000 years ago, but go along with this…) It’s an ordinary day, an ordinary bike ride, and an angel comes and interrupts it.
What’s a girl to do?
We are both like Mary and unlike Mary here.
We’re unlike Mary because few of us have any direct experience of angels (and some would have serious doubts that angels are more than a metaphor for a special visitation of God).
But we’re like Mary because we are often minding our own business when something inside us makes us realise that God is speaking a new word to us. Asking us to do something.
Perhaps, like Mary, asking us to do something risky, even outrageous.
So next time you’re minding your own business, God may just let you know there is other business for you.
And when the angel tells Mary she is to bear a son, she has the normal answer any maiden would have:
How can this be, since I am a virgin?
You might think many of us are unlike Mary here. You might think that most of us here are not virgins.
Well, do I have news for you!
A virgin cannot have a child for reasons we’re well aware of. But you know, in God’s sight we are all virgins. We are virgins because we have no way to do what God wants us to do—unless the Spirit comes upon us and gives us the gifts we need. I mean, what do we say when the Holy Spirit confronts us with something we should do? We say,
How can this be, since I am a [fill your own response here]?
How can this be? How can I be an elder? How can I reach out to children at the school as a Kids Hope volunteer? How can I teach Sunday School? How could I become an ordained minister? I’m a [fill your own response here]!
But God equipped Mary. And God equips us. ‘How can this be?’ is no excuse.
And what did Mary finally say to the angel?
Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
Mary said Yes, and Jesus Christ came into the world.
We are like Mary. We say ‘yes’ to God.
But we’re also unlike Mary. Sometimes, we say ‘no’. How many times have our ‘nos’ cost us a blessing from God? Do you want God to bless you? Follow Mary’s example. Say Yes! when God calls.
Do you know, we’ve gone and forgotten the first thing the angel says to Mary:
Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.
Again, we’re like Mary here. And a little bit not like Mary.
We’re like Mary because God says to us at every moment of our existence, Greetings, favoured one! I am with you. We are indeed favoured. God has given his Son in the smelly squalor of the room set aside for animals. Jesus has lived a fully, truly human life for us. He died for us. The Spirit is showered upon us. We are favoured ones!
But not for the reason Mary was favoured. We cannot be the mother of the Lord. We cannot have that unique place in the history of God’s plan of salvation. That belongs to her.
It was in Mary’s body that Jesus was formed. Her breasts gave him milk. Her motherly discipline and care helped to form him.
There are a number of ways we can develop this; but today I just want to mention one last way that we are not like Mary.
We are not the Mother of God.
Mary is the Mother of God.
If you can’t bring yourself to say that, then call Mary the God-bearer or the Mother of God-made-flesh. It’s the same thing. Mary carried God within her.
Mary is the God-bearer, Mary is the Mother of God. We might shy away from saying this, but it’s a perfectly orthodox theological statement. If we deny it, we are denying that Jesus is God-made-flesh.
If Mary carried Jesus, gave birth to Jesus, suckled Jesus, she is the mother of Jesus.
If Jesus is Lord, she is the Mother of the Lord.
If Jesus is the ‘Word made flesh, who dwelt among us’, if Jesus is fully God as well as fully human, then in that sense Mary is the Mother of God.
Mary is the Mother of God-made-flesh.
That song Mary, did you know that has been made popular again by the a cappella group Pentatonix says it well:
Mary, did you know
when you kiss your little baby
you kiss the face of God?
We shy away from giving Mary honour in the way the Catholic Church does. Maybe we think they make too much of her. But perhaps we can begin to understand why they do.
But really, what we do instead is forget about Mary, except at Christmas. Let’s at least give her the due that is hers at this time of the year.
Like Mary, we are favoured by God!
Like Mary, we are called by God!
Like Mary, we can say Yes to God!
Unlike Mary, we are not the Mother of God. We are not the God-bearer. It is Mary’s honour to be the Mother of God-made-flesh. Our part is to be eternally thankful that she played her part.
I want to thank Teresa once more. Visit her website!