Mary the 1st Disciple of Jesus: Advent 2020 week 3
Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020: Advent Day 15
“With all my heart I glorify the Lord!
In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior.
He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant.
Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored
because the mighty one has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.
He shows mercy to everyone,
from one generation to the next,
who honors him as God.
He has shown strength with his arm.
He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations.
He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones
and lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering his mercy,
just as he promised to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.”
-Luke 1:46-55, (CEB)
Mary’s Role in History
Mary’s faith is a model for every Christian who has ever experienced anxious thoughts or has feared oppressors in powerful places. Because of this she has always been an inspirational role model in the church. Over the ages, Christians have assigned her many identities such as the Mother of Sorrows, the Queen of Heaven, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Black Madonna to name a few. In the Middle Ages she was referred to as the Woman of Valor, as a warrior whose blessing would be invoked before battles. She has been interpreted as a woman of power and proclaimer of truth. Her prophetic leadership is the reason she is referred to as Jesus’ first disciple today.
Reflect: Mary was Jesus’ First Disciple
Mary’s Magnificat, today’s scripture passage, praises God for his faithfulness and attentiveness to justice for the oppressed. Mary was the first to announce that the transformation of the world had begun because of her pregnancy with Jesus. The Magnificat is not just a praise of adoration for God, but a proclamation of justice and a declaration for the world that the revolution of God’s plan had begun.
Pregnancy is a profoundly spiritually embodied experience. However, we do not need to be pregnant to experience embodied spirituality.
Find ten minutes of solitude to connect your body with your spirit today:
Begin by finding a comfortable posture, breathe deeply and settle into your body. Notice what your body is telling you by how it feels. Invite God to bring to mind ways which your body needs care. Set an intention to care for yourself physically today.
Monday, Dec. 14, 2020: Advent Day 16
Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and his powerful strength. Put on God’s armor so that you can make a stand against the tricks of the devil. We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens. Therefore, pick up the full armor of God so that you can stand your ground on the evil day and after you have done everything possible to still stand. So stand with the belt of truth around your waist, justice as your breastplate, and put shoes on your feet so that you are ready to spread the good news of peace. Above all, carry the shield of faith so that you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s word.
-Ephesians 6:10-17, (CEB)
Ephesians affirms a holistic and universal understanding of the church with all its members sharing the same identity as Children of God. Ephesians 6:10-17 also reminds us that our bodies are important to God. God no longer only dwells in the temple, but in us and among us through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:13-20). Our bodies and our spirits are intimately connected, and God asks that we be intentionally connected to the health and importance of both.
Reflect: Mary’s Leadership in the Early Church
The Bible records Mary’s presence at Pentecost, receiving the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. She was present when the Spirit poured out among the disciples in those powerful first church gatherings. Alongside John, Mary was in all likelihood an influential leader in the earliest church where all was shared and new believers formed themselves into family. As one of Jesus’ Disciples, (and his Mother), the influence of Mary’s wisdom and knowledge of Jesus was invaluable, and her significance as a leader during this time deserves more attention.
It is sometimes easy for us to disconnect caring for our physical bodies from our Spirit, hearts and mind, however listening to our bodies is an important part of our spiritual health.
Find a quiet 10 minutes today to be in solitude. Still your mind and ask God to bring to mind ways in which you need care today. Is it emotional? Physical? Spiritual? Use the image below as a guide for prayer.
Ask God who gives generously what we need, to pour out rest on you today. Sit in silence and receive God’s peace.
Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020: Advent Day 17
Moses said, The Lord your God will raise up from your own people a prophet like me. Listen to whatever he tells you. Whoever doesn’t listen to that prophet will be totally cut off from the people. All the prophets who spoke—from Samuel forward—announced these days. You are the heirs of the prophets and the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he told Abraham, Through your descendants, all the families on earth will be blessed. After God raised his servant, he sent him to you first—to bless you by enabling each of you to turn from your evil ways.”
-Acts 3:22-26, (CEB)
The Early Church’s Power:
Peter and John were speaking to a large crowd that had gathered. The early church was on the move, a united force of Jesus’ disciples active and influential through the power of the Holy Spirit, converting followers but also stirring up enemies. The disciples made the religious authorities angry: “They were incensed that the apostles were teaching the people and announcing that the resurrection of the dead was happening because of Jesus.” (Acts 4:2). Their teachings were full of the Spirit’s power and charged with emotion.
No doubt Mary was present in these events. We know she was an early disciple and she was with John after Jesus left her in his care. The commitment the disciples had made to one another, to build this body of believers was continuously reinforced by the Holy Spirit activity among the people. No longer were lines of division drawn between the believers, rich and poor, male and female, but all equal in power and authority through the Holy Spirit. “Everything they owned was held in common” (Acts 4:32). Under the power of the Spirit, people were compelled to give generously and laid down their previous understandings of security, hierarchy and control for the vision of new life given to them by Jesus.
How liberating this must have been for the women to see the walls that society had placed around them being destroyed by Jesus’ love for them. God isn’t just a god of love but a god of liberation and of power.
God has made a covenant with us that he will be faithful and draw near. Jesus came to earth as Emmanuel, or “God is with us”, in Hebrew. Spend time today reflecting on the scripture passage in the image above. Remember the promise God has made to you, to bless you and be near to you always.
Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020: Advent Day 18
The people who trust in the Lord
are like Mount Zion:
never shaken, lasting forever.
Mountains surround Jerusalem.
That’s how the Lord surrounds his people
from now until forever from now!
The wicked rod won’t remain
in the land given to the righteous
so that they don’t use their hands to do anything wrong.
Lord, do good to people who are good,
to people whose hearts are right.
But as for those people who turn to their own twisted ways—
may the Lord march them off with other evildoers!
Peace be on Israel!
-Psalm 125 (CEB)
Lady of Sorrows
Psalm 125 is motivation to trust in the Lord despite circumstances. Although the “wicked rod”, (aka the enemy), is threatening God’s people here, there is an invitation to peace, and security through the assurance that God remains in control. The contrast of those who turn to wickedness contrasted with those who trust in God is meant to motivate faith in difficult circumstances.
It must have required great faith and trust in God’s control as Mary witnessed the suffering her son endured during his ministry and crucifixion. Things did not go according to the plan she first imagined for his life.
From her encounter with Simeon in Luke 2: 25-33, Mary received news her son would cause great division and suffer. She knew this suffering would be hers to bear as well. The triumphalistic promises she proclaimed early in her pregnancy must have been difficult to cling to at times. However, her faith and constant presence with the believers resulted in her being a valuable and powerful witness for the early church.
Mary is sometimes referred to as “Our Lady of Sorrows” and “Mater Dolorosa”. Both the Orthodox and the Catholic church honor her as a woman who knows what it means to suffer and look to her for guidance in difficult circumstances today.
Although Advent is a joyous time for celebration and excitement that God has come into the world to be with us, it is also a time where we have the opportunity to assess our roles as light bearers in places of suffering and darkness.
Download phone screen wallpapers (tap and hold on images below) or on the Know Your Mothers App to help you remember God’s promise of nearness and protection.
Pray to see opportunities to be light in places of darkness this week.
Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020: Advent Day 19
In the past, God spoke through the prophets to our ancestors in many times and many ways. In these final days, though, he spoke to us through a Son. God made his Son the heir of everything and created the world through him. The Son is the light of God’s glory and the imprint of God’s being. He maintains everything with his powerful message. After he carried out the cleansing of people from their sins, he sat down at the right side of the highest majesty. And the Son became so much greater than the other messengers, such as angels, that he received a more important title than theirs.
-Hebrews 1:1-4 ,(CEB)
Hebrews and Female Leadership
The Book of Hebrews is effective work of exhortation that has never been properly attributed to one author. All evidence, however, points to the author being Priscilla. (You can click on the link below for more info about Priscilla’s teaching and leading, which has far-reaching implications for women in church leadership.)
Hebrews is an incredibly female-conscious text. Even from these first passages (above), the church is encouraged that God’s character is made known through the life of Jesus. The Jesus who walked beside, respected, befriended and allowed women into his group of disciples is reflective of a God who deeply cares for and honors women’s lives, talents and leadership.
Jesus had a deep respect for women and it doesn't take much of a leap to imagine this respect must have been formed during his time with his mother. Mary, as the first woman in Jesus’ life, holds a special place as the first to know her son’s heart and God’s heart for women. Jesus risked his reputation to talk with women in public. How exciting it must have been for Mary to so clearly see how her son was changing the world for women like her.
Read my article here which discusses why Priscilla is the most likely author of Hebrews
To be recognized and honored by others is to receive a sense of validation of worth. Jesus brought this validation into the lives of women who were seen as second class citizens in his time. Spend some time today reflecting on those who are often cast as second class citizens in ourtime.
Spend time in prayer today for the immigrants, the poor and the black and brown bodies that suffer under the oppression of those in power who do not see as God sees. Use the prayer image below as a guide if desired.
Friday, December 18, 2020: Advent Day 20
After all, when did God ever say to any of the angels:
"You are my Son. Today I have become your Father?" Or, even,
"I will be his Father, and he will be my Son?"
But then, when he brought his firstborn into the world, he said,
"All of God’s angels must worship him."
He talks about the angels: "He’s the one who uses the spirits for his messengers and who uses flames of fire as ministers."
But he says to his Son, "God, your throne is forever and your kingdom’s scepter is a rod of justice. You loved righteousness and hated lawless behavior. That is why God, your God, has anointed you more than your companions with the oil of joy."
The Role of the Angels
Angels were an important part of the story of Jesus’ birth. From the Angel’s visit with Mary and Zechariah, to Joseph’s dream, to the shepherds in the field that witnessed the angels praising God after Jesus’ birth, angels are active and important in the nativity story.
Mary and other Jews at the time of Jesus’ life would have had a deep appreciation for angels as God’s servants and as those who delivered God’s law to Moses.
God works within our cultural understandings and personally held values to draw us closer to him. Luke tells us that the angel who visited Mary assured her that God saw her with favor and wanted to honor her. Receiving favor from God and honor from society were two extremely important values for Mary’s time.
Our God is a god that draws near and speaks to us in profoundly personal ways. Find five minutes of solitude today and ask for God to speak to your heart today. Ask God to reveal himself to you today in a way that feels personal to you uniquely.
Saturday, December 19, 2020: Advent Day 21
Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not arrest him?" The police answered, "Never has anyone spoken like this!" Then the Pharisees replied, "Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed."
- John 7:45-49, (NRSV)
Authorities Who Don't Believe
As a good Jew, Mary would have grown up with a reverence for the religious authorities. She would have learned to value and look to their leadership with respect. This passage above illustrates how these authority figures, although experts in the law, were the first to come against Jesus to put an end to his ministry.
Authority in God’s kingdom is unlike the authority of the world. No amount of work or worldly influence can earn someone access to God. This was a direct threat to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were accustomed to their place of authority. Jesus’ message of accessibility to himself and God, as well as the message of inclusion of all people was a radical and threatening idea.
Similarly today, it is not hard to find groups of individuals that adhere to ideas of order and law over what Jesus showed us through his ministry. I saw a cartoon by the @NakedPastor recently that has stuck with me and has had me reflecting. In the cartoon Jesus says: “The difference between me and you is you use scripture to determine what love means and I use love to determine what scripture means”.
Spend time today in prayer for God’s loving acceptance to be felt, both by you and by others who need it most.