Luke tells us that Mary was “perplexed” by the angel’s visit…(bewildered, confused)…Is it any wonder? An angel visiting the village is hard enough to handle; add in his message that she is pregnant while still a virgin; tack on the fact that her child is destined to be the Son of God and Savior of the World! That’s a lot to take in all at once. What’s worse…nobody else saw this guy and who’s gonna believe a thirteen year old girl? Mary’s reality is that her situation could be life-threatening…It certainly will have a dramatic impact on the rest of her life. The culture in which she lives is not very tolerant when it comes to young girls mysteriously becoming pregnant…If the people don’t stone her to death, they will certainly treat her differently and look down on her for her failure to remain pure. From our vantage point, the angel brings good news and a wonderful gift to Mary…From Mary’s perspective, however, we might see things very differently.
Imagining ourselves in Mary’s circumstances may be difficult…We are far removed from that culture and times have changed…haven’t they? In fact, our culture is very different from the First Century and things have changed in many ways…However, there are still plenty of examples where we find ourselves in impossible situations and there seems to be no one around us who is willing to accept or help us in the midst of our suffering.
Today our theme is HOPE…
We began our service with the words:
“I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.”
It may seem like those words only state the obvious…Of course we believe in the Sun when we can’t actually see it shining. But we need to think about these haunting words from the perspective of the person who wrote them…This is the beginning of a poem written by someone who died in the Holocaust. In the midst of absolute despair, someone was able to find hope and “believe in the Sun” even when it was not shining for them…The reality is that the Sun did not shine on them because of the great cloud of smoke and ash filling the sky from the killing furnaces of evil.
The other day, the sky was extremely overcast and there was no evidence of the Sun shining…I knew it was up there, but I could not see it. The gray-ness made the air feel colder and the day seemed to go by more slowly. It was comforting to know that we would be able to see the Sun someday and this gray feeling would pass. I was reminded of that song from the Broadway musical, “Annie” – “The Sun’ll come out tomorrow…” Little Orphan Annie knew that, no matter how bad her life seemed to be, there was always hope that things would get better tomorrow. This is not intended to trivialize the experience spoken of in this poem…My point is that when bad things happen to us we often feel like we are in a dark place…From that darkness we may feel that comfort, understanding and hope are far away…We look for ways to turn our difficulty into a belief in real hope and the chance for redemption and rebirth.
I think we can take a lesson from Mary when we find ourselves overwhelmed by our circumstances…She was confused and probably worried about what would happen to her…She was in an impossible situation where even her family would have a hard time defending her…Yet, she said: “Here I am…let it be with me according to your word.” In spite of the fear she must have felt and the uncertainty of her future, Mary tried to let God be in charge of her life. My guess is that it was not as easy as Luke makes it sound in his story. How does a teenage girl see hope in an unplanned pregnancy when parents and friends turn away?
- What does the world look like from the perspective of a man who has been unemployed for 18 months and Christmas is just around the corner?
- What does it look like through the eyes of families whose homes were destroyed by the Creek County fires as winter knocks on our doorstep?
- How much Sun is visible to a single woman with three kids and two jobs?
- Can a child who is being abused by a trusted adult really sing, “The Sun’ll come out tomorrow”?
In our own lives and in the lives of others we look for ways to turn these difficult times into opportunities for re-birth…How often we hear…“Every cloud has a silver lining.”
Advent reminds us that we are preparing ourselves to be transformed by God’s Love…The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the one series of events in history that can bring hope from the worst despair. Later in Luke’s Gospel we hear Mary telling her cousin Elizabeth about her visit from the angel. Mary offers one of the most famous prayers in history – The Magnificat. “My soul magnifies the Lord,” she says. She talks about the proud being scattered and the lowly being raised up. The overarching message of these stories about Mary is that…1. Nothing is impossible for God, and 2. God is glorified when the vulnerable are lifted up in love. This Advent season is our chance recognize all the possibilities God offers all of us…It gives us the chance to glorify God when we lift up those who find themselves unable to see the sun shining on them. If you believe in the Son, help someone else to see Him shine…In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…Amen