Mary said “yes” when an angel announced that would become pregnant outside of marriage. Because she said “yes,” her whole community assumed she was lying about the pregnancy, or worse. She would endure judgment, criticism, ridicule, shunning, and loss of respect. She would be seen by her family and friends as a sinful girl, condemned to live outside of God’s righteousness. Her pregnancy, and eventually her illegitimate baby, would be living reminders of her great shame.
That would be one perspective on Mary. A perspective based on the way the world around her worked.
Another perspective would be that by saying “yes,” an entirely new life opened up for her. That one word moved her directly into the path of God’s redeeming activity for the world. She became caught up in God’s mercy and love which was changing everything. God’s purpose of redemption and love became the center of her life, and everything was made new. Her perspective, her worldview, her priorities, her day-to-day living.
In that one “yes” her heart was opened to a clearer, completely new understanding of who God is and what God is about. And that new awareness of God’s purpose in the world overwhelms her, and pours out from her heart when she meets her cousin Elizabeth in this text today.
Mary’s Magnificat is an outpouring of praise for the God of love and mercy who has now filled her heart and her life. Her joy cannot even be contained. It flows from her, a river of meaning, fulfillment, and joy. Her life is entirely new and wonderful.
That is another perspective on Mary. A perspective based on the nearness of God.
The season of Advent presents us with some different perspectives on our lives and our world. Some are based more on how the world around us works. Others are based more on God coming near to us. But because of what Advent is, the differences in these perspectives can be quite stark. And, the opportunities that lie before us in this season are quite contrasting.
For instance, informed by the world in which we live, this time before Christmas is pretty chaotic, stressful, and sometimes pretty lonely. We sprint through store after store stressing out as we try to find the perfect gifts for everyone. We spend way more than we should for gifts that may not even be needed. We fill our calendars with all the holiday parties we have to attend with people we don’t know even though we really don’t want to go. We shop till we drop loading up credit cards that will then take months—if not years—to pay off. Not to mention digging out the house decorations, putting up the tree, inviting the guests, hosting the dinners. We have to put on a happy face and pretend we’re enjoying all this stress, because we’re supposed to. Even if what we’re really experiencing is just plain loneliness or heart aching grief.
We’ll then make it to church Christmas Eve, but we’ll be exhausted. We’ll hear the story of the manger, we’ll hold a candle and sing Silent Night, but in all honesty we’ll just be glad when it’s over.
That’s one perspective. One that doesn’t include all the opportunities for heart-filled joy of this season.
Another perspective would one that is informed by the nearness of God whose love for the world is about to bowl us over. Advent can be the time to follow Mary, say “yes,” and move directly into the path of God’s redeeming activity in the world. To get caught up in God’s mercy and love which change everything. To get to know God in surprisingly new ways that make our whole lives new. To experience the joy that Mary couldn’t contain, the pouring out praises to the God of love and mercy. A God whose story—we are reminded—is one of coming so close that the world could actually touch God. In Advent we can be filled with meaning, fulfillment, and the joy of Christ that make our lives entirely new and wonderful.
That’s another perspective. One that helps us re-discover that which has been missing for us. A perspective based less on stress and more on that which fills the empty places in our hearts.
We can begin today. We can join Mary as she says “yes” to God’s justice and mercy, as she pours out her Magnificat of praise from the depths of her being, as she opens her heart to be filled with God’s love for the world.
There are a lot of different perspectives on Advent. We have the opportunity to experience this season from the perspective of God’s love, mercy, and justice that is sweeping into the world. We can step directly into the path of God’s presence with us. We can experience God’s newness and life. We can have our hearts opened again to God’s purpose in the world. We can pour out our praise to the God who comes near and makes all things new. We can say “yes” this season. Yes to pouring ourselves out in worship. Yes to being made new. Yes to re-discovering that which has been missing. Yes to full and joyful hearts.
God comes near to us. Of course, that’s just one perspective.