Today we tell the story of Mary the mother of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in Galilee. She has been betrothed and married to Joseph. As was the tradition she has not yet moved into Joseph’s home. She will continue to live with her father for about a year before moving to her husband’s home at which time the marriage will be consummated. As such we deduce that she is probably 12 or 13, her menses may not yet have even started. She is at the beginning of her childbearing years, a time when she is of most value to her family, a time when Mary can be most confident in her self-worth. The gospel of Matthew tells the nativity story from the perspective of Joseph, but for the author of Luke the story is told from the perspective of Mary with little mention of Joseph. This is Mary’s story.
In contrast Mary’s cousin Elizabeth is at the end of her child-bearing years and in great humiliation and sorrow she is barren with no children. About this time the Angel Gabriel breaks into history and appears to Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah when he has been selected to enter the Holy of Holies a once in a life-time experience. Gabriel tells Zechariah that Elizabeth will bear him a son and they are to call him John. Zechariah does not believe Gabriel, he is old, Elizabeth is old and has never bore a child so why should he expect her to now. Zechariah should have known better, as a priest he knows the Old Testament stories of Sarah and Abraham, Rebekah and Isaac, Rachel and Jacob, Hanna and Elkanah… With God anything is possible! As a sign to Zechariah that what Gabriel said is true, Zechariah is struck mute until the birth of Zechariah’s son John.
Elizabeth conceives and about six months later the angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her that she will conceive and bare a son who will be called Jesus. With the confidence of a teenager Mary does not doubt what Gabriel says to her, her only question is how this will be since she has not yet gone to live with Joseph. Mary understands the mechanics of conception. Gabriel tells Mary that the child will be the child of God not of a human father and the Spirit of God will overshadow her. Joseph and Mary do not come together prematurely. Mary is not promiscuous. Mary is not raped by a Roman soldier. Mary is not raped by God or by the Holy Spirit. Do not forget that God is the creator of all things.
With Mary’s consent creation continues and God begets a Son with Mary. Mary cannot possibly understand what she has agreed to. She will be the mother of Jesus. She will carry the Son of God. She cannot have thought of the pain this will bring to her parents and to Joseph, the whispering and rejection of their neighbors. She cannot know the pain she will bear as Jesus is rejected, arrested, tortured and crucified, but agree she does and Mary conceives a child who will be called Jesus. As a sign of the truth of his words, Gabriel tells Mary that her cousin Elizabeth who was thought to be barren is now six months pregnant. Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth who affirms Mary and affirms that Mary is indeed carrying the Son of God. You will recall how when Mary called out a greeting to Elizabeth, the child within Elizabeth jumped for joy and Elizabeth blessed Mary and the child Mary was carrying.
In this story we learn that anything is possible with God. The conception of John and the conception of Jesus were not through the will of a man and a woman but through the will of God. Through this story we learn that creation was not a one-time event, but that creation is an ongoing process that God invites us to participate in; we receive confirmation that God is active in history, in time and in our lives; we learn that God is trustworthy. Zechariah and Elizabeth believed God, lay together and begat a child that they named John. Mary trusted God and agreed to carry God’s son Jesus, a child begat by God and Mary, a child both divine and human. From Matthew we learn that Joseph trusted God and adopted Jesus as his own son. God is trustworthy. God continues to create.
When Gabriel comes to Mary to tell her that she will bear the Son of God, Mary replies “God’s will be done.” Jon and I are sixty, well past the years of childbearing. I would be shocked, no horrified to learn that I was pregnant. I can’t image midnight feedings at my age. Can you imagine turning eighty and sending your child off to college! Yes I know this is true for some older fathers, but I find it hard to imagine. But God has called Jon and me to other things. With children I imagine our lives would be very different. As a University Professor, Jon is teacher, mentor and confessor to many young people as some of you are. As a priest I carry out the sacraments; I visit the sick, the elderly and the lonely; I hear confessions and pronounce absolution and promise God’s forgiveness; I bless and I proclaim the gospel; I console the grieving and love those who believe themselves unloved.
As a mother my priorities would have been different, presumably I would not work and live in a different state than my husband, perhaps I would not have been called to serve God as a priest. But God did call me to be a priest and God did call me to serve St. James’ in Albion and I answered “Yes!” Five years ago this week I was ordained a priest here at St. James’. I am praying and discerning how God will continue to use this 60 year old priest. I would never have thought of myself as a fighter for social justice, but for what is right. Apparently social justice is a subject that is important to me. What is social justice? A quick search defines Social Justice as “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.” What will this mean for me and for St. James’? I remain open to what God may be calling me to. God’s will be done.
What is God calling you to? When is the last time that you took time, serious time, to be alone with God, to talk with God and to listen to God? Do you hear the quiet voice of God calling? What is God calling you to? Do you like Zechariah doubt that you hear the voice of God calling or can you recognize the voice of God and like Mary reply, “Yes Lord, your will be done.” Amen.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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