Advent Reflection #15, 2016

advent-series-image-2016

Luke 1:46b-55
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 

Mary clearly knew the Psalms as well as the Prophets, for her prayer, called by many, “The Magnificat” ranks up there with the very best of the Psalms and Prophetic statements of the Old Testament. Mary is blessed. She understands, in a way, what the Lord is doing, and is about to do. She understands, because she seems to understand the “red thread” that runs through what we now call the Old Testament: God’s people turned away, embraced sin, and were in need of rescue. The world was off kilter, with a few possessing most everything and abusing and neglecting the many. There were too many hungry bellies, too many down-and-out, too many helpless, and they were all in need of the promised Messiah. God was going to deliver God’s people, and God had chosen to do so through Mary.

Mary is a spectacular figure in the Bible. She is perhaps the second most important person after Jesus in all of Scripture. We need not (and should not) worship her to grasp this rightly. Mary said “yes.” Mary, was the fulfillment of a long line of insignificant and unexpected people chosen by God for significant and important things. Mary’s task made the least sense, and was so unexpected, and yet, unlike all others she acquiesced immediately, simply asking a biological question that begged asking.

Mary’s importance has been summed up, historically, by the Greek term Theotokos, which means “mother of God” or “God-bearer.” The title is important because it reminds us that we cannot have this story without Mary. Even at it’s most patriarchal, the Church has been unable to avoid Mary. She stands as a helpful corrective to patriarchy and Gnostic understandings of the Incarnation that seek to disembody Jesus, focusing more on his spiritual rather than his physical existence. Now, this focus on Mary can also go too far. I’ll be the first to suggest that Mariolatry, or the worship of Mary, is harmful, distracting, and extra-biblical. That said, affirming her importance and the importance of the role she plays as Theotokos is very helpful if we are to understand the Gospel.

Theotokos – God-bearer. In a way, we are all called to be little God-bearers. In professing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and being baptized, Paul says that we die with Christ and are raised with Him as well. In the process, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, allowing us to follow Him in our everyday lives, and, in a way we are able to bear God to the world. Not like Mary; no, her gift to the world was a singular, non-repeatable act. But because of her act, and in particular because of the faithfulness of Jesus, we are able to bear God to the world through our lives and love for others. In the end, our lives are meant to echo Mary’s life, and the words of her important prayer. Our lives are meant to help bless others, the poor and down-trodden in particular.

How can you be a blessing to someone in need today? How can you care for others this holiday season? Is there someone you can bless and be a blessing to? Pray that God would point you towards a person and enlighten you as to even one small way you might be a blessing to them. Similarly, ask that you might be enlightened about how others are blessing you. Perhaps someone has been (or at least has been trying) to bless you. Sometimes blessing others is far easier for us than allowing others to be bless us. We must also be receptive to this. Pray, therefore, that God would help you to bless others, and to receive the blessings that others have for you.

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