Mary Theotokos: Advent 2020 Week 4
Sunday, December 20, 2020: Advent Day 22:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Mary, the Mother of God
This final week of Advent we are reflecting on Mary as the mother of God. There has been extensive discussion since the earliest church on how to think of Mary as God’s mother.
The intensity of the bodily and spiritual transformation that occurs during birth can’t be overlooked if we are going to consider Mary’s true experience.
God did not just use Mary’s body as a vessel to birth baby God, but Jesus grew, and was nurtured inside of Mary’s body. He was formed and was delivered into the world by her own flesh and blood, her body broken, sore and depleted after.
This reality is one that many male interpreters of the Bible have often avoided unpacking. The fact that Jesus was formed, birthed and then nourished by a woman’s body has important implications for understanding the redemption and beauty of women’s bodies as vessels of life and as acceptable to God.
Understanding that God chose to bring Jesus into the world in the most earthly ways, invites us to see how God accepts our bodies as they are. The story of salvation for the world began with Mary’s consent, that her body would grow the baby of the Holy Spirit to bring forth the anticipated King.
Jesus was flesh of Mary’s flesh, mirroring the story of creation of woman in Genesis 2:22-23. From mankind a woman was made, but since then every man, (and woman), has been created and born through a woman (1 Corinthians 11:12).
Jesus is the ultimate bringer of life. Through Jesus is the promise of eternal life but also to live in a way in tune with spiritual things, to be filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit which dwells within us! Pray for Joy today, that the Spirit would fill your body up with a sense of eternal Joy and excitement for what is to come!
Monday, December 21, 2020: Advent Day 23:
But when Christ came as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), he entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!
The Most Perfect Sacrifice
Jesus came to earth as the ultimate “high priest”. In previous Jewish understanding, only the high priest could enter the tabernacle to approach God, and only once a year under the strictest circumstances requiring sacrificial blood. Jesus came into the world and ended the old covenant that was more concerned with rules around food, drink and ceremonial activities. The barriers to approach God were destroyed when Jesus offered himself as the most perfect sacrifice. His death put the new covenant into effect, securing access into the presence of God for women and men.
God was changing what he was doing in the world to connect with his children and Mary was right in the middle of it all.
To be called to such a challenging task; to birth, nurture, and then release Jesus into God’s hands required great faith.
God saw in Mary what we can easily miss today if we do not read her story carefully. Mary was a prophetic and wise leader. She was thoughtful and contemplative. She knew deep down what God was doing and it made her burst with joy and praise. She was a servant leader with a willingness to trust God in the most delicate and unknown of circumstances. What an exemplary leader of faith she is for us today!
Find 5-10 minutes of solitude today. It has been hard for all of us, however God has been in the thick of it with us, even if we couldn’t always tell. Ask God to show you moments of his faithfulness in this past year. Pray that God would increase your faithfulness to reach deeper levels of trust and faith in 2021.
Tuesday, December 22, 2020: Advent Day 24
And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary the Revolutionary
Mary and Elizabeth were the first to know the overwhelming hope of God’s justice and attention to the oppressed. They were the first to see clearly what God was up to in the world. And Mary’s words in particular were a direct threat to anyone who held power.
Most often we grow up knowing the story of Mary as the obedient mother who birthed Jesus and raised a good son. We rarely discuss her as the leader of a prophetic revolution who was the first to declare the overthrow of the oppressive powers of her time.
But that is what she did
Mary’s prophetic call declaring God’s plan to dethrone the powerful, offset power and give it to the underprivileged is actually quite intense.
Who are the wealthy? Who are the powerful?
Wealth is relative, however if we embrace a global perspective, much of the West and almost all of the United States is considered wealthy.
What does this mean for us? It means that God is changing things. He is now and he will continue to change and redeem the world into the future. Prophets like Mary exist to warn and provide perspective, but also to declare a time of hope for those who currently need it.
Lets pray Mary’s Magnificat in our own words today. Read over Luke 1:46-55 and pray it in your own words. Or pray the version I’ve written in the image below.
Wednesday, December 23, 2020: Advent Day 25
Hannah prayed and said,"My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in my God. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the Lord, no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the Lord is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry are fat with spoil. The barren has borne seven, but she who has many children is forlorn. The Lord kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up. The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low, he also exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; He lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor. For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness; for not by might does one prevail. The Lord! His adversaries shall be shattered; The Most High will thunder in heaven. The Lord will judge the ends of the earth; He will give strength to his king, And exalt the power of his anointed.”
-1 Samuel 2: 1-10, (NRSV)
Hannah & Mary
So much of Hannah’s song parallels that of Mary’s famous Magnificat. It is not a stretch to imagine that Mary had Hannah’s miraculous conception on her mind as she pondered her own pregnancy.
Like Hannah, she was blessed with a miraculous pregnancy and with a son who would be destined to serve God. Both women recognized God as their rock and support. Both women knew that God saw their hearts and knew them intimately.
Both of these women trusted God and modeled what it means to receive God’s peace. God works within our unique situations and comes to our rescue. God is active and present, even when we feel distant from him. Neither Mary nor Hannah knew what it was going to be like raising baby boys only to release them into God’s hands as they grew. However, both of them leaned into the challenge of trusting God’s control and his good will for not only their sons, but for their lives as well.
God cares about our most intimate and personal concerns. Spend 10 minutes today reflecting on what it is you desire most in your heart right now and pray for these cares today.
Thursday, December 24 2020: Advent Day 26
“When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.’ They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.”
-Luke 2:15-20, (CEB)
Love of a Mother
For a short time Mary had Jesus all to herself. She was his first disciple and the first who laid down her life to love him. At some point in Jesus’ life, Joseph died and Mary was widowed, a precarious and dangerous situation for a woman in her time. As Jesus’ ministry heated up and Mary witnessed her son put to death on a cross, society would have cast shame on this widow who raised a “criminal”. Yet as Jesus looked down on his mother and John from the cross, he saw their hearts and provided Mary security with his words: “‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home”(John 19:26b-27). Jesus provided care for Mary in his last moments and even in agonizing pain showed extraordinary love for her.
Mary was a warrior of faith and courage who embraced the mission to birth and raise the child who would begin the most controversial and extraordinary story of God’s love.
Her presence in the story of Jesus’ life from a young teenager full of faith all the way to the grieving mother full of hope is the reason her story is so incredible and why she continues to be a role model today.
Find 10 minutes today for solitude. As we busily prepare ourselves for Christmas day tomorrow, find time to rest today in the love Jesus brings you as his greatest gift to the world.