Advent 4b – Sunday 18th December 2011
I never thought I’d hear myself say it, but, I’m smitten by Mary (The Virgin, God’s mum, the highly favoured lady – just in case you wondered who I was talking about!). I know many Roman Catholics go the whole 10 yards on Mary and would certainly use a word like that. For someone like me though, who can’t quite understand the ‘Mary thing’, this is a surprising feeling.
Perhaps smitten is the wrong word.
I would say ‘identify with’ but it doesn’t seem to carry the force that I need.
Anyway, as I search desperately for the word, let me explain what I mean.
The Angel Gabriel appears to Mary, and in the New Living Translation we are told that Mary is ‘confused and disturbed’. This is the amazing thing. All the angel has said is ‘Hi!’ And Mary is left confused and disturbed.
I’m confused and disturbed. Because I know God has said ‘Hi!’ to me too. In fact, he’s said plenty more besides. But I’m disturbed. Disturbed because I can’t even begin to explain why God would speak to me. Disturbed because I can’t even begin to explain why God would want to use me – as a voice-piece or as an example. Disturbed because I know how often I fall short, how many times I sin and curse and hurt. Disturbed because I find this journey of faith so hard. Disturbed because I have so many unanswered question – of myself more than of God.
And if all that isn’t bad enough, I’m confused too. Does God know what he is doing? If I was in his shoes, then I would not be in his A-Game. I wouldn’t even be in plan B. Believe me, I know me, things are only going to crash and burn if God goes ahead and uses me. And I’ve a sneaking suspicion Mary would have said the same thing – all this Immaculate Conception and Blessed Virgin stuff is a real smoke screen.
We are human. We are defective. We are fallible. We should be confused and disturbed, because how the heck is God going to use us???
The advent story is all about grace. The passion story is all about grace. The life of faith is all about grace. Pure and undeserving grace.
And because of that grace we have found favour with God.
Oh, wow, amazing. Say that again.
Because of grace we have found favour with God.
Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that wonderful. Something so undeserved, and yet so freely poured out for each one of us.
Three weeks into Advent and I’ve finally been bitten by the Christmas bug. No, I’ve not got a cold, or any other sickness.
I’ve opened the door into my heart because I’ve been overwhelmed. Why does God choose me to share his story with me? I don’t know. I’m confused and disturbed. But I’m also overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by grace. Overwhelmed by love.
In the New Living Translation Gabriel’s welcome to Mary is: “Greetings, favoured woman! The Lord is with you!”
Just listen to The Message, far better: “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you.”
And that is the good news message. You and me. Everyone. We’re all beautiful with God’s beauty. Breathtaking. Amazing. Confusing. Disturbing. Wonderful.