Throughout Advent we hear the prophets speak to us about hope and a new world. John the Baptist adds to this in his well-known discourse about Preparing the Way of the Lord. We find ourselves this time of year being busy. We are busy with preparations for Christmas; we are busy with deadlines, work commitments, Christmas and endless parties and gatherings. Shopping is at the max and it seems, right about now, that the chaos of this year will never end.
Then we come to this week and we hear from a new, yet vitally important character in our Advent Story. Mary comes into the scene and she, once having been told what is asked of her says, “Yes” and then launches into what we now know as the Magnificat, Mary’s Song.
So what exactly is going on? By all accounts we like the People of God long ago are carrying on with our ordinary everyday lives. We carry on in the business of this time of year. We carry on coping, and struggling to make sense of a world that sometimes defies logic, reason or understanding. We lament, feel helpless and overwhelmed at many of the world issues and problems. They don’t seem to be getting any better. For the People of God of long ago they too are going about their daily lives as best they can. They also live in a world where Kingdoms rise and fall and quality of life that is quite uncertain for many.
It is in their world, our world that the Heavenly Powers seem to overlook what is happening and come up with a plan. They decide in their infinite wisdom to submit, for a moment, to a 13 year old girl. They come to her and say, “Okay, this is what we are thinking; this is what we would like to do. What do you think, are you in?” Mary thinks about this proposal, takes note of her situation and says, “Okay, I’m in.” The Heavenly Powers respond, “Okay that’s great. Then we are going in too.” It is at that moment that the world is interrupted in its daily routine by something quite different and quite unexpected.
On the one hand this is really quite absurd. I mean, come on Roger . . . really is this what we are supposed to believe. It doesn’t make sense and defies logic that God in all of God’s power chooses this set of circumstances to come into the world. This is what Walter Breugerman and others call, “The Scandal of the Particular.” We are talking about this time, this place, a stable, a manger, this person – Mary; very concrete and particular physical matter. This is what the Incarnation is all about. It is about one person, in one place, at one time that was the catalyst to change the world.
What we learn from Mary is that if she fully understood her circumstances and had the tenacity to basically say, “Yes, what else do I have to loose”, then she is no innocent timid little girl. She is a force to be reckoned with and a force that would strike fear into the hearts of the powerful and the elite down through the ages even to our present day. Her song the Magnificat is a text of liberation and justice that talks about how the powerful will be brought down from their thrones and the lowly are lifted up (Luke 1: 52). Oh yes, the powerful the world over were afraid and still are afraid of anything that can be seen to threaten their place of privilege. Advent is Incarnation time when God chooses to come into this world, our world and turn it upside down.
What we learn from this is that if God chooses someone as ordinary and vulnerable as a thirteen year old girl to show up in this world in the flesh, then we have a God that can show up anywhere and at any time. If God could take a risk in showing up in someone like Mary, there is no telling what kind of risk God is willing to take with you and me. As flawed, vulnerable and ordinary as we are there is no limit to what kind of risk God is willing to take with us. God has a plan for the world and has chosen you and me. What do you think? Are you in?