I have now focused two sermons on being present - being in the moment. Remembering that Advent is a time of contemplation and preparation, it is also a time we try to rush to the Christmas story...I tend to rush it towards the Sunday where we have the story of Mary told to us once again.
I have always been drawn to the character of Mary in the Biblical narratives. I have also been drawn to her as a person in history and faith. There is something so captivating of the woman dressed in pale baby blue. The mother of Jesus and the source of many unexplained appearances over time. Yet, to see Mary as a magical figure that appears on toast and water stained walls of the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago is limiting. To limit her to these miraculous stories of appearances or to some statue to be crowned and declared queen of heaven (as if God doesn’t have queenship under control any more or less than kingship of heaven) is doing a disservice to Mary the person.
Mary was a real person, visited by God’s holy angel, and given a choice to be part of this story of salvation. In Luke’s Gospel we learn that the story is revealed to Mary (yes...she sure did know) and she accepts the role God invited her to play. She was pregnant and most likely had the same gestational experiences of many mothers. She carried a precious life within her, like many other mothers. She had feelings of love, fear, uncertainty, like many other mothers.
Mary was a real person.
Mary was young, poor, and yet carried a faith so deep in God that she was able to face all these adversities and most likely many more. Mary was one of the few that walked with Jesus throughout his life - from birth to death.
In her novel, Our Lady of the Lost and Found, Diane Schoemperlen tells a story about how an unnamed writer is visited by a woman in a blue dress and white sneakers...the Virgin Mary herself. The book goes on to tell the fictional story of this woman and her time with Mary as an uninvited, yet welcomed, house guest.
I recall a short yet profound statement from Schoemperlen: “There is no such thing as a simple story.” Truly, there is no such thing. Every story, no matter how short or insignificant, is a complex tale of fiction and experience...of emotion and personal revelation.
The story of Mary, though lacking in detail and information in our scriptures, has a complex and fascinating history. The fictional book Our Lady of the Lost and Found explores this complexity in joyful detail. Giving us yet another glimpse into the story of Mary.
I believe that no matter where one looks to hear a story about Mary, the most important story is that of faith. Like many people we encounter in our scriptures, we encounter stories of faith. Like so many people we encounter in our lives, we encounter their stories of faith. In her book Schoemperlen says “it all depends, I suppose, on how comfortable you are with uncertainty, how fond you are of mystery, how willing you are to make the quantum leap that faith requires.” Perhaps this is why I am always so ready to go after the low hanging fruit of songs like Mary Did You Know for their mansplaining lack of theological and faithful insight. Mary knew what God was planning (it’s all there in Luke 1 & 2) from the visitation of Gabriel to the prophecy of Simeon spoken directly to her: “and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
The faith story of Mary as a real person is one that can never be told too often.
When we struggle with our faith, perhaps we can look to the person of Mary for strength and as an example. Be it a fictional story, scriptural story, or historical story, we can find so much depth in the story of Mary. Faith takes a quantum leap without a doubt, but to take that leap of faith can make all difference.
In this time and place, we pray with the saints and live day by day in anticipation of days and world to come.
May you be blessed this Advent and may you find the joy of Christmas around the corner!
Yours in Christ,