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Reflecting with Mary

Advent 4, Common Lectionary Year A

Reflections © 2019 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Audio file

Reading the Hebrew Scriptures Isaiah 7:10-16

 Reflecting with Mary         Was That About Me? 

 * Carol       Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming           VU 8

Reading the Gospel Luke 1:26-35 (Annunciation)

  Reflecting with Mary         Ponderings

  * Carol       To a Maid Whose Name Was Mary      v.1,4    VU 14

Reading the Gospel Luke 1:39-46 (Visitation)

    Reflecting with Mary          Sisterhood

 * Carol       Canticle of the Turning                  MV 120

Reading the Gospel Luke 2:7, 19 (Incarnation)

 Reflecting with Mary         Swaddled

 * Carol      Before the Marvel of this Night      VU 40

Reading the Hebrew Scriptures Isaiah 7:10-16
Back in the days of feckless king Ahaz, a weasel-y character good at shamming a public piety, but in truth with a faith as flimsy as a reed against the wind, (7:2) Isaiah the court prophet had been charged by God with reassuring Ahaz that Judah’s future was held secure in God’s hand. Isaiah had offered great poems of promise, but Ahaz was not convinced. So God offers more than words, a visual, physical sign.
Let’s listen to this short palatial court incident that, through Luke and Matthew’s Gospels, has become such a treasured part of our own faith tradition.

God the HOLY ONE spoke to Ahaz, king of Judah, saying,
“You can ask me for a sign, let it be from the depths of Sheol (Hell),
or from the heights of heaven. Anything!”
King Ahaz refused the LORD,
saying he would not put God to the test in that way.
At this, Isaiah spoke for God, declaring,
“Hear this, then, O house of David!
Have you wearied of God?
Behold!, God has given you a sign anyway!
A young woman is pregnant, do you see?!
And she will give birth to a son, and call him Immanuel, (which means God IS with us).
By the time this child is old enough to discern good from evil,
the foreign kings who threaten you
will themselves have been crushed, and their lands deserted.”(PAUSE:

Reflecting with Mary : Was That About Me?

I am Miriam of Nazareth, the widow of Joseph.
You may know me as Maria, Marie, Mary,
or as some insist, praying to me
as Maria Semper Virginem
as if I were Isaiah’s almah
his parthenos, virgin.

I chuckle, every time I hear this,
knowing what my body knows
that others never needed to.

You know of me because
your ancestors
wanted to know
what sort of mother could raise a child
to spend his life
so completely
in pursuit of God’s Dream.

Now, that’s a question you should be asking!
Not the state of my womb,
but the state of my heart!
You want to know about the
longing of my soul,
the aching of my bones,
for the goodness and the justice,
and the love,
of God to be enfleshed
in every generation.

I am Miriam of Nazareth,
the mother of God’s Son,
the bearer of God’s beautiful Dreamer.
And I would bear him, again, and always,
for the sake of God’s Dream,
for the sake of God’s world.
That’s all you need to know.
I am Maria Semper Maternam.
I was his mother.

 * Carol       Lo, How a Rose e’er Blooming           VU 8

Reading the Gospel Luke 1:26-35 (Annunciation)
Centuries later, this sign of God’s favour had blossomed like a rose, into a messianic hope that at some point God would birth into the world a Saviour, from the house of David, whose task would be to restore the glory of the kingdom of God on earth. Decades after Jesus’ death, Luke picks up Isaiah’s pen, and writes this, concerning the conception and birth of Mary’s Son, Jesus.

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,
to a young woman betrothed to Joseph, descendant of the house of David.
Oh, the girl’s name was Mary.
Gabriel came to her, saying,
“Greetings, Favoured one! God is with You.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee!”

But she was sore perplexed,
and wondered why she should be receiving such an auspicious greeting.
Gabriel, as if reading her mind, said,
“Fear Not! For you have found favour with God,
and you will conceive a son,
and when he is born you will call him Yeshua – Jesus, which means, God saves.”

To which Mary replied, even more perplexed,
“How can this be? I am parthenos, I know no man.”

“This will be God’s doing” the angel replied,
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you;
the child you carry will be holy, God’s child.
For nothing is impossible with God.”

To this, Mary said,
“Here am I, then, the servant of the Holy One.
Let it be with me as you say.”

Reflecting with Mary Ponderings

What would you say to an angel of the Holy One?
Every ounce of my frightened adolescence wanted to shout
“No! I am unworthy! I do not have the strength!
You want me to cradle infinity
in the secret shelter of my womb? No!”
So I said nothing in my perplexity.
I waited.

God waited.

I waited until I’d said goodbye to my innocence,
and my obscurity.

I waited until my heart and soul could glimpse
again the Dream of God.

I waited until I could remember the promises of old
recited at my mother’s knee,
of God coming close,
of infinity contracted
to dwell in tents with us.

I waited.

God waited.[1]

Not one of us breathed,
until I said
and God consented.
And the Breath of Life itself
became the knitted substance of my womb.

* Carol       To a Maid Whose Name Was Mary      v.1,4    VU 14

Reading the Gospel Luke 1:39-46 (Visitation)
Early in her pregnancy, Mary travelled south to the hill town in Judea where her mother’s sister Elizabeth lived. Elizabeth was the wife of Zechariah the priest, and also pregnant with a God-promised son.
When the two women met,
the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt.
She exclaimed jubilantly,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed indeed is the child in your womb!
What joy it is for me that the mother of our Saviour
should come to visit me.
And blessed are you,
who have trusted the truth of God’s promises.”

Reflecting with Mary Sisterhood

Luke says “the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped,”

  • I’m Elizabeth –
    and that I said some pious words to her,
    recognizing the holiness of her child.
    That’s a bit of a stretch!
    I enveloped her in my arms,
    squeezed her to my breast,
    hugged her tight, and my babe kicked alright – squashed, poor thing!
    Did I know who she was carrying?
    Did she know?
    Did I know about my John?
    Who they both would become?

All either of us needed to know is that we were miracle mothers!

Like every mother.
Every child who kicks against its mother’s ribs is a miracle baby,
as full of God and of hope and of possibility
as it’s possible to be!
Luke says that I, Mary, sang this marvellous song,
others think it was Elizabeth who sang it.
The truth is, we both did!
It wasn’t my song, but Hannah’s song,
Hannah the mother of Samuel, from long, long ago.
I’m surprised Luke didn’t know that,
but then, it’s a woman’s song.
Every woman of Judah learns it at her mother’s knee.
We sing it to every swelling belly,
humming like a secret joy.
But oh, we sang it together, that day,
and cradled each other’s promised motherhood.

We sing it, as all women do,
as we cradle new life
in a world that is worn and torn
and aching with death.
We sing it to turn our world aright.

Sing it with us,
all who long for the world to turn!

  • Carol Canticle of the Turning MV 120

Reading the Gospel Luke 2:7, 19 (Incarnation)
Then the August Caesar decreed that the Empire should count us all. Joseph had to travel to his ancestral home, Bethlehem, in Judea. And Mary went with him, heavy with her pregnancy.
When they were there, her labour began, and she delivered her child onto the straw of an animal barn at the back of an inn, because there was not an empty room to be had anywhere. And she swaddled him, and laid him in a feed trough.

Reflecting with Mary Swaddled
Why did Luke tell you that?
That I swaddled him?
Was this another prophecy to be fulfilled, perhaps?
Or a foreshadowing of his shroud?
I’d like to say it was not such a profound action,
that it is just what mothers do,
what we have done since times forgotten,
when our newborns startle at the
frightening freedom of the world
beyond the safety of our womb.
I swaddled him,
left over tiny shoulder, fists to his ribs,
right over curled hip, bunched toes,
cocooned against the winter cold,
bundled and bound,
cloth for his new skin against
a cradle of half-chewed hay.
Swaddled him,
so that his star-spun infinity could,
for a lifespan,
be held in human hands like mine…
or yours.
You would do nothing other
if it were you,
if you loved him,
as I do.

And swaddled,
downy head resting on my cheek,
I sang him lullabies
of the Dream of God.

 * Carol      Before the Marvel of this Night      VU 40

[1] This part of the reflection is heavily influenced by a poem by Denise Levertov, Aunnication , in which she emphasizes the agency of Mary’s considered consent. A notion often overlooked, and frankly troublesome to most feminist theologians.

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