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Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Mary's Boy Child



Often the focus of Mary’s story is its extraordinary nature. This is more than understandable: Mary is told she will bear a child who will be called the Son of the Most High; she is told the baby will be conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The Virgin Birth is a supernatural event! And it's supposed to be!!

It is mysterious and baffling and for some, even a stumbling block to belief. But Mary believes that the God who created the cosmos from nothing can create life in her womb- and she trusts him.

But what strikes me about Mary’s being Jesus’ mother is not so much how extraordinary it was, but how ordinary it was. Mary, like no one else, learnt that God works in the quiet, in the mundane, in the day to day.

The angel came to her, not in a temple or a palace, but in lowly Nazareth.

And although the Messiah grows in her womb, Mary still has to travel 100 miles to Bethlehem for a census just like everyone else. The Son of the Most High depends on her for life, but it’s not magical:it still involves being subject to the will of distant politicians and to long inconvenient journeys and to closed doors and to the pain of childbirth and to the anxieties and confusions of motherhood.

But Mary seemed to understand that the coming of Jesus demonstrated God’s commitment to the insignificant: “he has exalted those of humble estate!”

Mary reminds me that God is at work in the ordinary. He does extraordinary, supernatural and glorious deeds; he sends his own Son. But his son comes to us in the quiet. He comes to us in the regular humdrum of everyday life: in our traffic jams and our running out of milk and our thoroughly average office jobs, and there- where we are- he does incredible things.

Mary also had to absorb an awful lot of mystery as she mothered Jesus.

There’s a refrain in Luke where the writer says, “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” She must have felt frequently perplexed by what the angel had promised when she saw her son’s life unfold: from the manger and the shepherds, to his having to flee to Egypt, to the promised Messiah being a carpenter, to his brutal death on a Roman cross.

Perhaps she expected something more impressive. I wonder whether her heart ever ached with the mystery: he’s God’s Son- why must it be this way?

I know my heart has.

But I’m comforted when I remember that Mary was at the tomb on Easter Sunday. On that morning, when she saw her son, risen from the dead, how many of those treasured up mysteries must have made sense. How her heart must have leaped and danced with delight at God’s capacity to do good beyond what her own understanding could work out during Jesus’ childhood. How those perplexities she’d stored up throughout his lifetime must have ignited as her risen son explained to her, exploding like fireworks as their significance was revealed in the light of his life, and death, and life.

Mary reminds me that God is at work even when it looks unimpressive, and that He is at work even when I can’t quite figure out how. All I can do is treasure up the mystery, and excitedly await the day when I meet the resurrected Son, his glorious work in all things is revealed, and my heart joins the dance.

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