Another Sunday has arrived. We have reached the second Sunday of Advent in the year 2020.
Nothing about this year has been normal as we would call it in our current culture. I think what 2020 has taught us as a society is that no matter how much progress we make or knowledge we gain we are still not, and never will be, fully in control of this universe.
And that’s okay because we aren’t supposed to be.
There is still vastly more around us that we can’t understand or master. We all like to believe we are in complete control of our lives, but we really aren’t. The future for each of us is a mystery.
The season of Advent is a time of reflection, but it is also an invitation into mystery.
A reminder that we can’t control everything, but we can control where we put our trust, and have faith that we will have a guide for our future. Accepting whatever that might be.
A reminder that it is okay to lean into the mystery without having all of the answers beforehand.
Mary, the mother of our Lord and Savior, is the greatest example there is to us of what it means to lean into the mystery, surrender our control, and just accept with faith the direction our life is going.
I recently completed a Bible study by Kristi McLelland called Jesus & Women: In the First Century and Now and in the final study session she talks about her belief that Mary’s answer of yes to the angel Gabriel was one of the hardest yeses recorded in the Bible:
One of the hardest yeses in the Bible belonged to a young girl – Mary (Miriam). In Jesus’ day, young premenstrual girls were betrothed to eighteen-year-old boys…Betrothal usually lasted for one year. We can imagine Mary as eleven or twelve years old when Gabriel visited her. She was betrothed, not yet married…The adventure of birthing and being the mother of the Messiah came to a young girl. She had no idea what it would cost her. She knew it could cost her very life in an honor/shame culture.(McLelland, 123)
Talk about courage and accepting in faith!
Mary lived in a culture where much was out of her control as well. She lived in a time where her people had been conquered and were living under Roman Occupation.
She also lived in a culture where women had no value and no say in their lives. They were expected to marry who they have been told to marry and then to produce sons. This was their purpose in life.
Even though she was young, Mary knew the expectations being put upon her by society, and she understood clearly what the consequences to saying this yes could be for her. She still accepted in faith.
This is why Mary’s faith is so remarkable!
She already had a fiance. She was doing her duty already as a daughter and was preparing to do her duty as a wife. She had a clear path in front of her that should lead to protection, food, and shelter. As good of a life as any Jewish woman could hope for in that time period. She had the assurance of respectability and thriving.
But she accepted in faith what God was asking her to do anyways.
This is why we still hear theologians exclaiming over the faith of Mary today.
This past year has been difficult for everyone.
Covid has become the Roman Empire of 2020. We can’t control it, we can only do our best to survive and get by under it. We are surrounded by uncertainties and fears. And this is difficult for each of us in many different ways.
But we can still have faith!
Faith in the Father who loves us, the Son who saves us, and the Spirit who guides us.
These aren’t easy times. Having faith doesn’t negate the bad. It doesn’t say that we can’t and aren’t suffering. Our Bibles are full of faithful people who questioned their situations and lamented over their disappointments and losses.
But they still had faith!
I am quite certain that Mary often lamented the things that happened to her and her circumstances after she agreed to become the mother of God. She had no clue if she would even live long enough to birth the Messiah she agreed to carry.
But she had faith!
Having faith doesn’t mean we are given all of the answers we need for moving forward. It means we accept where we are at and we are content in knowing that we are never alone.
Mary knew uncertainty and lonely. She knew pain and suffering. Mary knew grief, anguish, and despair.
But Mary accepted it all knowing she was never alone in any of these things.
And neither are we.
I may be feeling the losses and disappointments of this past year. My Christmas tree may still be waiting to have bulbs and decorations added to the lights that have finally been put on it. Maybe I wore my pajamas all day yesterday, but ultimately I know that I have the faith to press onward accepting that I am not alone. I do have a purpose and a future though I can’t see it clearly today and I am still surrounded with the Father’s loving kindness.
Even though I feel surrounded by darkness more often then not at times, I have faith that the Light is coming.
As Advent continues on, leading us to the light of the world born at Christmas, we are waiting and accepting all that we are experiencing as we lean into the mystery.
O come, O come, Emmanual!
We are waiting in hope.
We are accepting in faith.