Today at our Sanctuary service, we began a new tradition of having Mary Sunday, an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Today, I am posting my sermon for the service which is not the typical growing grace farm blog post, but this is one I want to save for posterity.
I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
~Luke 1: 46-48 (The Message)
This week, I was blessed by my friend, Nicole, who called to share with me the joyful news of being 13-weeks-pregnant. But you see, she didn’t need to call. When I saw her a month ago, I knew. There is something about a woman who is blessed by a wanted pregnancy that just glows. Just shines. She cannot hide the light.
And as I sat with her joy in the midst of my Advent, I thought about Mary and her pregnancy. I’ve been sitting with Mary all week and considering how she felt during her own time of being with child. You see, she was not 32, she did not have a husband, nor the means that my friend has. Her social class set her apart as well.
Even with her faith in God, I cannot imagine what it must have been like to take on such a responsibility at her age, physically, spiritually, or emotionally. As I meditated on Mary this week, I was reminded of my sophomore year homeroom at Asheville High School and a young girl named Paulette.
Paulette and I came from very different worlds. We sat on opposite sides of the classroom each morning, she with her friends, and I tagging along with a group of people who just accepted me at their table.
In November I realized that something about Paulette was changing but I couldn’t put my finger on it. She was more reserved, not as friendly. She smiled less and cried more. As winter continued, her coats grew bigger, and I noticed that even on unseasonably warm days, she hugged her coat tightly as if she were chilled.
You see, in all of my naivete, I didn’t know she was pregnant. It took a group of privileged white teenagers gossiping about it to clue me in. To them, Paulette was just another casualty of poverty, class and race.
To me, she became something more, and an admiration of this young woman grew deeply in my soul. This young woman was taking on something I couldn’t understand, but for me, she represented strength and faith in something bigger as she walked into school every day, determined to finish her education and give birth to this child.
And so, in reflecting on Mary this week, I wondered about her in her hometown of Nazareth. While she committed herself to God and this gift, what was it like for this young woman, pregnant and lowly? I imagine she was more reserved like my classmate, Paulette, and less exuberant than my friend, Nicole.
And yet, she goes to visit Elizabeth, and it is if she can take a breath and let all of that go. What a greeting she receives! Rather than being considered a casualty of poverty and class, Elizabeth lifts her up and praises her: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” I imagine the two of them sitting around the kitchen table enjoying their time together—a weight lifted of off Mary’s shoulders and the opportunity to ask questions of her older and more experienced relative.
I imagine Mary took a deep breath and was finally able to celebrate the joy of being God’s chosen one. And in that moment, her heart was filled with song about the love of God and what it means to be defined by God’s grace.
If you read the Message version of the Magnificat, it begins with Mary proclaiming, “I am bursting with God-news.”
And so what is the God-news that we take away from the Magnificat for our lives today? It is that the God of the Old Testament has chosen a poor and lowly young girl to birth the one who will exemplify God’s grace and salvation in the world. Her song reminds us that God chooses each of us, regardless of status, class, race, or orientation to live out God’s love in this world. We are not defined by those societal stereotypes or mores. No. We are defined by how we live out our faith.
The God-News is that God works within each of us, and we are all worthy of God’s grace and mercy.
And what does Mary embody? Mary is the promise that we are called not only to have faith in God and the grace God extends, but that each of us is called to share love, mercy, and grace with those around us, regardless of status, class, race or orientation. The God-News is in the giving, not just the receiving, of such gifts, for that is what we are called to do as Christians.
I remember the Spring day Paulette returned to school with a new babe swaddled in her arms. She was smiling and joyful, laughing with her friends as they surrounded her special gift. Even our stern homeroom teacher walked over and cooed at the baby.
I remember sitting at my desk watching from afar. I wondered what Paulette was pondering in her heart at that moment. Perhaps she was celebrating the blessings of love, friendship and mercy being showered upon her.