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MARY’s STORY:  Let It Be 

The way you tell the Christmas story, it all sounds so simple. So simple. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I really like it. It’s just that for so long now people have been telling my story and the way they tell it, it all sounds so simple and easy, so neat and tidy, that I hardly recognize myself in the story.

It’s not your fault.  It all started a long time ago.

Luke and that other fellow Matthew, they started it all.  They wrote my story down and wouldn’t you know it they cleaned it all up.

But who can blame them.  Nobody likes messy birth stories.

And as birth stories go, my baby’s birth was a really messy one.

But when Luke tells the story, he likes to down play the messy bits.

But it was messy right from the start.

There I was, no more than fourteen, part of the young and the restless crowd.

My parents wanted me to settle down and it seemed like all my friends were getting married.

So I agreed to let my parents find me a husband and they picked out a local carpenter.

Joseph was a good man.

A little quiet perhaps, but a good man.

So it was all arranged and I was engaged to Joseph.

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, when along came somebody claiming to be a messenger from God.

An angel no less.  Called himself Gabriel.

What an entrance he made.

There I was, all alone, minding my own business and along comes an angel.

Bold as brass, in he comes.  He scared the life out of me.

I had no idea what I was in for.

Imagine my surprise when he says to me, “Greetings, favoured one!  God is with you.”

I was struck dumb.  What sort of greeting was this?

He tells me not to be afraid and then with out so much as a “by your leave” he comes out with it.

He tells me that I, Mary have found favour with God.  Imagine that!

Then he says that I am about to conceive in my womb and bear a child.

And no ordinary child mind you but the Child of the Most High who will take over David’s throne and his reign will have no end.

Well would you believe it?  Not me.

I told that fool Gabriel that he must have the wrong girl.

I was a virgin!

Then he says that the Holy Spirit will come upon me and that the power of the Most High will overshadow me and that a child will be born.

He must have noticed that I wasn’t buying any of it because then he tried to convince me that nothing was impossible for God.

He told me that my cousin, old Elizabeth who had been barren for as long as I could remember had also conceived a child and was sixth months pregnant.

He kept insisting that nothing was impossible for God.

He had me so worked up that I didn’t know what to say.

Does that ever happen to you?

You hear something so incredible you just don’t know how to respond and then you end up saying something really stupid.  I can’t believe what I said to this guy.

When I think back on it, I suppose I could claim that it was the Holy Spirit that prompted me to say it.

I sure don’t know where I got the moxy to say what I said.

I looked that Angel Gabriel right in the eyes and I said, “Here am I, the servant of God; let it be with me according to your word.”

I must have been crazy!

But it must have been just what he wanted to hear because after that Gabriel was out of there.

I don’t mind telling you that it took a while for things to sink in.

I’m not sure I really believed Gabriel’s grand announcement until the Holy Spirit actually showed up.

Now I know that you’re all really curious about how it all came about.

But there are some things that a lady just doesn’t reveal.  And being overshadowed by the Most High is one of them.

All you need to know is that I became pregnant.

And what a mess that was.

In Nazareth, they did a far sight more than just frown upon young girls who get pregnant before they‘re married.

In those days you could be stoned if anyone found out.

So I kept things to myself.

I couldn’t help wondering about what the angel had said about Elizabeth.

Could it be true that at her age Elizabeth had finally become pregnant?

I wondered if she had had any angels visiting her house.

And I thought that maybe she could help me to understand what was happening.

So I convinced my parents to let me go and visit Elizabeth.

When I arrived, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

There was Elizabeth, stomach out to there.

When she caught sight of me she let out a loud cry and started going on about how I was blessed among women, and so was the fruit of my womb.

She wanted to know why I had come.

She asked me why the mother of her Lord should come to her house.

I wasn’t sure what to make of all that she said.

She told me that the moment she saw me the baby in her womb leapt for joy.

She went on and on about how blessed I was.

And by this time I was beginning to believe her.

I didn’t fully understand what was going on inside my body but I knew that God had some special plans for my child and for me.

I remembered some words from the Torah, words from the prophets Isaiah and Habakkuk, words that Hannah had spoken and words from the psalms.

These words from the scriptures flooded into my mind and I began to speak them:

“My soul magnifies the Most High,

and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour,

who has looked with favour on the lowliness of God’s servant:

Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;

for the Mighty One has done great things for me,

and holy is God’s name.

God’s mercy is for those who revere God from generation to generation.

God has shown strength with God’s arm,

and has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.

God has brought down the powerful from their thrones,

and lifted up the lowly;

God has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich away empty.

God has helped God’s servant Israel,

in remembrance of God’s mercy,

according to the promise God made to our ancestors,

to Abraham and Sarah and to their descendants forever.”

Incredible words.  Unbelievable words.

Generations will can me blessed.  That’s for sure.

Generations have indeed called me blessed.

For nearly two thousand years, my story has been told in word and song.

But like I told you before, they have made it sound so simple and easy.

They have prettied it up.

I hardly recognise myself in the stories that have been told about me.

They’ve turned me into something that I am not.

For one thing they go on and on about the “Blessed Virgin.”

They make me out to be so meek and mild.

They constantly talk about how I surrendered myself to God, how I am the perfect model for the submissive obedient woman.

They have created an image of me as the perfect woman, and what an image a virgin and a mother.

They point to their image of  me as the obedient virgin mother as an example for women to follow.

Who could live up to that.  Not me!

Virgin and a mother indeed.  Totally submissive!  Hah!

Is that how you see me?

Have you any idea what it means to carry the Child of the Most High in your womb?

Submissive and obedient!  I was a scared little girl.

I was no one special.  Why God choose me, I will never know.

I was just an ordinary young woman.

I was a woman for heaven sakes.

A woman who lived two thousand years ago in a little town called Nazareth.

I had no special virtues, no power of my own.

I was the epitome of the lowly.

And God choose me.

God did what God is always doing.

God choose what was ordinary and accomplished something extra-ordinary.

God looked with favour upon me, lowly little Mary and God choose me to help change the world.

The Mighty One has done great things for me.

I am part of God’s plan to scatter the proud and bring down the powerful from their thrones, to lift up the lowly.

To help fill the hungry with good things, and to send the rich away empty.

I am part of God’s plan.

Part of the promise God made to our ancestors, to Abraham and Sarah and to their descendants forever.

I will admit that there were days when I wondered if I was the first woman that Gabriel visited.

Was I the first woman asked to bear God’s child or had the angel approached several young women who declined the honour.

I wouldn’t blame them if they did.

If I had known what was coming, I might have said no myself.

I don’t know how I found the courage to say yes.

But I do know one thing, if you want an example to follow, choose that one.

Forget the image of me as the submissive and obedient virgin mother and look at who I really am.

I had the courage to say yes.  I had the courage to let something grow inside me.

I had the courage to harbour the Child of God in my body.

If you want to emulate something emulate that.

Do you have the courage to harbour Christ in your body?

If you want to set me up as an example to follow, follow that, and have the courage to bear Christ.

But I ask you, when the power of the Most High overshadows you will you have the courage to trust God.

Will you have the courage to be a bearer of God to the world?

That’s the terrifying challenge that my story offers.

I challenge you to be at God’s disposal, to become filled with God’s life–for the sake of the world.

But let me warn you, God-bearing is more than a little inconvenient:  it can be heart breaking and even lethal.

Bearing God to the world means letting some of God’s passion for the world become flesh and that can be costly.

Bearing God to the world means being part of God’s plan to redeem the world; to scatter the proud and to bring down the powerful from their thrones; to lift up the lowly; to fill the hungry with good things, and to send the rich away empty.

When God sends a messenger to you, will you have the courage to say “Here am I, the servant of God; let it be with me according to your word.

Will you have the courage to join me in bearing God to the world?

So you see, it’s not so easy!  Mine is not a pretty little story.  It’s not so simple.

I said before that I don’t know why I answered Gabriel the way that I did.

I said that perhaps it was the Holy Spirit that prompted me to say it.

And over the years I have come to believe that.

And just as God gave me the courage and the strength to be part of God’s plan –

I trust that God will grant you that same courage and strength.

Let it be, oh God.

Let it be, according to your word.  Amen.

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