Editor’s Note: Since Christmas falls on the day after the final day of Advent, we are sharing this year’s fourth Advent reflection today.
I am a parent by way of two roads—biologically and through adoption. My appreciation for Mary grew exponentially when my twin toddlers joined our family two years ago. When Gabriel came to her, she agreed to infinitely more than I would have if I were her.
As I read her words in Luke 1:46-55, I can’t help but wonder if she truly grasped the complexity, beauty and pain her particular form of motherhood would hold. Without warning or time to thoughtfully consider, Mary was asked to grow and raise a baby who was fully human and fully divine. Fully hers and yet somehow, fully beyond her.
Her response is one of the most emphatic “yeses” in scripture. What force apart from love would compel someone to consent to such a journey?
As I take stock of my own journey as the mother of two humans who belong fully to me and fully to the ones who gave them life, I find myself in awe of the complexity and beauty inherent in our communities of faith. As a woman and an inclusive and affirming pastor, I have witnessed and personally experienced a love akin to Mary’s in the congregation I serve.
We belong to one another in a way that transcends biology. We step in and fill the gaps that exist in our families of origin. We also amplify and encourage health and healing where it can exist.
We are mothers, fathers, siblings, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and cousins to people we choose, knowing they are fully ours, yet somehow, fully beyond us. Again, what force apart from love would compel someone to consent to such a journey?
Mary’s willingness to exist in such a layered relationship is a legacy and an example. She models the love of the Christ she carried. That love is made known through and within our communities of faith.
Mary labored and birthed, loved and released. She did this and more, knowing her son, God’s son, belonged to her and the world.
How do we take up her courage and walk in her love? How do we honor the heart of the mother of God in our lives and churches?
Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel in Luke 1 is unique and instructive: “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” (Lk.1:46b-49, NRSV).
If we want to love as Mary loved, I suggest that we start by considering it an honor to do so. There are people in our lives in need of the love we have to offer, in need of a parent, a child or a friend.
Multitudes have experienced the biting cold of rejection from their families or former churches. They are looking to be welcomed back into the warmth of a community, fully vested and wholly embraced.
Perhaps Mary’s love looks like finding the ones among us who are hurt, timid or angry. Maybe Mary’s love would bid us to make and protect space for their wildness and their pain, for their mistrust and their tears. After all, what is healing if not a birth of another form?
Maybe Mary’s example of love invites us to remember all we have and all we are belongs to God, and that includes the people we cherish.
We can hold people tightly in our hearts but with loose hands, just as Mary did as she witnessed the ministry of Jesus. We can provide a soft place to land, a makeshift bed of straw and cloth, and we can celebrate when that bed becomes too small for the ones in our care.
As Advent draws to a close, may we embrace the tension inherent in how Mary loves and echo her willingness to engage in layered relationships.
May we seek a deeper existence for our churches and communities, more fully trusting the Spirit to tend to the ones we’ve been given the honor to love. May we build and keep spaces where people who have been harmed can find a soft place to rest.
May we remember that when we say yes to loving someone this way, we make our Mother proud.