As I wade into Advent, the days of waiting, expectation and longing, I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus.
I have been reflecting on Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s announcement about the conception of her son in Luke 1:26-38 and have been influenced by insights shared by Scot McKnight in his book, “The Real Mary.”
She is given an incredible message that as a Hebrew woman certainly means shame and ridicule.
Yet she says, “Let it be according to your word.” Then she turns to her cousin, Elizabeth, and launches into one of the greatest protest chants of the Bible, which is often called the Magnificat (see Luke 1:46-56).
There are two incredible things that Mary accepts in Gabriel’s proclamation.
First, that nothing has to change for her to be involved in God’s plan except for God to get in the mix.
She didn’t have to earn a master’s in social work or economics to analyze the problems in her society and come up with a solution. She didn’t work her way into the places of power in order to affect change.
She remained a humble, common person brought even lower by God’s means of reaching out to us.
Being part of God’s plan didn’t make her life better. It made it worse. She also didn’t need to be special.
She only needed to be faithful, and that is what the phrase “Let it be according to your word” shows – her faithfulness and trust in something so outrageous and difficult, yet true and good.
So, Mary accepts her own reality. She takes life and the world as it is and doesn’t expect it to magically change. She will suffer because of God’s plan.
Yet she is also able to accept and proclaim a second, unbelievable reality – a great reversal in which God turns the world upside down by overturning the unjust ordering of the world.
She didn’t pull this out of thin air. She would have heard the words of the prophets proclaiming just this.
The incredible thing is that she accepts that this is the way things will be and that this is what God is doing in the world. It’s not abstract and it’s not future tense. This is what is happening.
How hard is it to accept both things? First, that our lives are ordinary and that suffering and pain are part of life that will not change no matter how much we pray or love God.
Second, that God involves us in God’s work of redemption and reconciliation in this world just as we are.
As we yearn and long for God to make things right, for life to have balance, meaning, purpose and fullness, may we also recognize that God is already here.
Nothing has to change for God to show up, and just because nothing changes doesn’t mean God is absent.
We proclaim a reality and truth that has already arrived and changed everything, yet life continues and remains ordinary and mundane.
May we follow Mary’s example and proclaim “Let it be according to your word” as we seek to live between these two realities.
Lucas Land is an urban farmer, graduate of Truett Theological Seminary and a member of Hope Fellowship, an intentional Christian community in Waco, Texas. He blogs at What Would Jesus Eat? where a version of this article first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter @agroecotheology.