December 22, 2022 (The fifth day of the fourth week of Advent 2022)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May Your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.” (Luke.1.38)
But, there is nothing simple about authentic love except its consequences. True love means making tough decisions for the right reasons. Sometimes, many times, the decision means you must fall in love with “waiting and trusting.” That is something the world seems very incapable of doing. We continue to see the failure of the “instant gratification” culture and climate fostered by a continued sense of self-unawareness. Mary is the anti-thesis of this mindset. If we take the time to really “experience” the story of Mary, then we would be struck to the core of our being about what it means to truly be a child of God. John captures the words of Jesus during a conversation with a group of Jews who professed belief in Him as He said, “You are truly My disciples when you know the truth that will set you free.” (John 8.32) Sadly, those professed believers didn’t understand, didn’t know, what Jesus had just said to them. They immediately argued that they were the descendants of Abraham and thus never had been slaves to anyone. I am not sure what they were talking about except for both short-term and long-term memory loss, perhaps. The history of Israel is filled with stories of their captivity to and in foreign nations. The great city of Jerusalem and its magnificent Temple had been destroyed and laid waste by the Babylonians. Some of their ancestors had been carried away into captivity in Babylon during the years of the prophetic leadership of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and a host of others. Those “left behind” struggled to maintain the faith in the midst of economic, social and spiritual crises. During that time, many had intermarried with the population planted by Babylon into the culture and climate of Israel. They did not wait. They did not trust. Now, in the presence of Jesus, they did not KNOW. That word “know” is literally pregnant with meaning. It has several connotations which rise up out of our physical, mental and spiritual experiences. When Mary was approached by the angel Gabriel and told she was going to be with child, she responded with “How can that be since I am a virgin?” A more literal translation of her response is “How can that be since I have not known a man?” She was a fourteen year old girl. Yes, in that culture and in that day, fourteen was the beginning year of womanhood. It was not the season of promiscuity as the world so imposes on girls of all cultures today. In Mary’s day, such “knowledge” was forbidden, as it should be today, until the bride’s groom had prepared a place for the couple to live and returned to take the bride to be with him forever. It was then, in that state of preparedness and readiness and righteousness that “the two would be as one.” There were many things Mary knew such as the word and way of the Lord. She knew the value of service and sacrifice having been raised in the Temple. The day of decision had come with her fourteenth birthday to either consent to marriage or be given into the lifelong service of the Temple. (We will not get into that conversation today!) She choose to be a wife and a mother. Joseph was chosen to be her husband and helpmate. When Mary pledged herself to Joseph it was to be his soul mate and equally important to be his sole mate. And while she waited, presumably in the Temple, for Joseph to return to claim his bride after preparing a place for them in Nazareth, Mary was given an even greater charge. She was in waiting but she had no idea what she was truly waiting for. She had one journey in mind but God had a journey in store for her for the “way of the Lord.”
Mary had to trust in the Lord with all her heart, mind, soul and strength. She had been taught this for all the years she could remember. The Word of God was placed in her heart and in her mind so that she would not wander far from it. She literally took the Word of the Lord to heart. She knew it but not like she was about to know it. Now Gabriel appeared to her and declared “the will and way of the Lord” for her life. While she was “waiting” for the love of her life, Joseph, to return to claim her as his bride and wife; she “waited,” served, the Lord with gladness and faithfulness as was her “first love” and true nature. Mary had to make a choice in that moment knowing how the world and the kingdom would see her. It didn’t matter what the world would say. What mattered most is what God had said and would say. She knew no other way but to please the Lord with her “yes, let His word be so in me.” It was the agreement to Immanuel, God with her and God within her. Unfaithful? Unclean? Unrighteous? Is your mind wrestling with the sense of seeing God in this situation akin to the story of David and Bathsheba? Are you looking at the whole picture with eyes of the world? Or are you willing to make that authentic love hard decision to see the difficult choice you, we, us all, must make when it comes to “waiting” and “waiting,” knowing” and “knowing,” as it pertains to our relationship with God Almighty. What is it that God is asking of you, me, us when it comes to being His child, His children, His people? What is our expectation and hope of being, becoming and being once again a child of God throughout the stages and years of our life and lives? For Mary, it was simple. In spite of the worldly consequences of doubt, confusion, question and heartache, she made the decision to “wait upon the Lord” and serve Him with all she had to give and all that would be required of her. She made the decision because she loved God more than anyone and anything in her life. She knew that God loved her and trusted her because His Word had already been planted within her soul. What she wanted was whatever God wanted of her. At that point, nothing else mattered.
Mighty ones of God, what matters to us in this season of waiting we call “Advent”? What is it that the Word of God which has been planted in our heart, mind and soul is calling us to be and to do? What is it that is truly the most important thing in our lives? Is it self? Is it the opinion of others? Is it the will of God? And if so, what are we willing to do in our time of waiting and in our service of waiting that will bless the world, glorify God and bring the promised benefit of completeness into our lives? How we tell the story of the coming into the world of Jesus which we dare to call Christmas teaches future generations about God’s authentic love for us and ours for Him. It also reaffirms what we should “know” about the birth of our Savior intended just for us as the fulfillment of what we and generations before us have waited for. Except, what is it that we are waiting for? Better yet, why are we still waiting for the Savior who has already come? “Wait!” We are waiting for the Groom to return to take His bride, the Church, to live with Him forever. Does that not mean we are “Mary” in this here and now story of life? I believe it does. Now what is it that we should “know” about what we “know”? Are we ready for those simple consequences to our difficult decision which authentic love demands as Christmas speaks of the truth we all should know?
Father, let us be willing to allow the truth of Your story written on our hearts and in our minds to set us free to fall in love again with our first love and share that with all the world so they can be truly in love with You for the rest of their lives. AMEN.