We’ve asked guest writer and friend of ZOE, Laurel Archer, to bring us an advent message for you this year. Conversations With Mary is a four-week narrative about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Read through and take in these thoughts Laurel shares with us what we can learn from Mary, woman to woman, about her profound faith and sacrificial obedience to her God and King.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, has been depicted endlessly: painted in oils, carved in wood and stone, woven into tapestries, drawn, doodled, dramatized and still she inspires us.
Famous people attract our attention and sometimes earn our admiration. Athletes, activists, actors and also everyday heroes gain access to our hearts, and so they influence our dreams, desires and our calling. Would you like to meet your hero in person?
Mary may be not be on your top ten list, but if you could, would you like to meet her – maybe while standing in line ordering your morning coffees? Would your heart begin to race? Would all the well-crafted questions about choices, sacrifice and acceptance that you wondered about, evaporate as she thanks the barista and turns to look at you –
her eyes like a window
inviting you to see yourself
in this new season.
For Advent this year, let’s set aside some time to sit down with Mary, as two women would sit over coffee, face to face, defenses down, companionable and with anticipation for a good conversation.
Week 1 “I am”
As I listened to her speak, I played a tape in my head: I am a woman, a worker, a wife and a mother; a friend, a cheerleader and a companion.
I am a wanderer and a watcher, a worrier and an over-committer. I am a failure – sometimes, even when I try my best. I am a cook and a cleaner, an over-comer, except of course when I am overcome.
I am eloquent, energetic, insightful in moments and inarticulate, slothful and ordinary in others.
I am hesitant, guarded and suspicious (I admit), but on Tuesday last week, I was inspired, maybe even anointed.
I am forgiving, gracious, well-meaning but occasionally easily wounded, defeated and deflated.
Mary! Of all of the statements describing yourself, how was this: I am the LORD’s servant, the first one out of your mouth?
Like a container
holding everything you were,
everything you offered.
You gave your whole self for God’s good will, to use for whatever God needed – we needed. Was it because God loved you Mary, not just the shiny virgin parts, but all the pieces, that you understood who you were in that moment and could say yes?
What did that freedom feel like?
Week 2 “Let it be”
The angel’s message must have blown you away. Luke says you were ‘greatly troubled’ just by the Angel’s greeting, as if some intuition-red light began flashing in your mind – Something’s coming… ‘might be good or bad…but it’s something!
By the time the angel got through the thicker bits: you’re going to have a baby boy, he’ll be God’s son and a king and reign eternally, you had just one question: How can this be?! The explanation led you around a sharp abrupt turn. You had to decide how you would navigate this new route.
I too have negotiated sharp turns, dead stops, reversals, holding patterns and I’ve struggled, trying to discern God’s call, wanting to be faithful; it isn’t as easy as the few words you spoke made it sound:
Simply, Let it be –
according to your word,
the words…wording me.
Being led by the Spirit can’t be just one moment in time. It must be faith in motion, moving around the corners, beyond the stops, enduring the holding patterns, renegotiating the reversals.
Did you know you’d be changed, Mary?
Did you know you’d be transformed?
Week 3 “Together”
How kind it was, Mary, for God to give you Elizabeth, knowing your heart would be full and maybe a little frightened about what was to come.
A woman, older than you, trusted, faithful, not made cynical by her experiences and willing to welcome you. Willing to spill her own unexpected joy over you with deeply affirming words of life.
Unselfishly, she let her own miraculous experience be used as a launch site for your incredible spirit-infused adventure.
Friendship is the fruit;
Community is the womb,
where life first flutters.
My community is complex; my relationships take work.
Sometimes, I’m hesitant to trust that collaboration will be more fruitful than it would be doing it by myself.
Affirmation and confirmation declared in the strength and safety of relationship allowed not just prophecy, but poetry to spill out of you, Mary, in your hymn of praise.
Did that surprise you, Mary?
Did you know there was so much within you to give?
Week 4 “Treasure”
I see you Mary with open hands, stretched down and toward others, even as your son Jesus’ hands were spread up and outward on the cross – both gestures of generosity. Did he learn this heart habit from you, as you practiced releasing Jesus, your treasure, over and over to the destiny that awaited him?
At the stable, you opened what should have been a private, sacred space to working men, rough and ragged from the fields, who clumsily filled it with awe and worship.
Freely you received
and gave freely to others -
gifting your treasure.
My reflex is often to grasp, hold onto, withhold, block and protect. I can trick myself into thinking these reflexes are necessary, even nurturing to the ideals to which they are attached.
But God keeps asking me to open my hands, in the demands, in my duties, in my devotions.
I see Mary, how you opened your hands, again and again: presented Jesus at the temple, released him to learn with the elders, stood vigil at the cross, mourned at the tomb and rejoiced at the resurrection.
Did you know what living this generously would mean?
Did you know that sacrificial generosity could spread such joy to the world?
We don’t’ give you as much attention Mary, as our Catholic brothers and sisters do. I’m not sure why that is, except we have this sense that you aren’t much different than we are, a woman of flesh and blood and breath.
But I do know this, it was never you who exalted yourself. You never craved the spotlight, you never grasped at a larger role. You slipped silently from the scene as Jesus stepped into it.
You are extraordinary because your soul magnified the Lord, not yourself. You understood that strength and mercy flowed to you from God, for the task given you to do.
It wasn’t about you, Mary.
It never was, and you knew it
in your heart.
Jesus, today again, help me to look outside myself and my own self-absorbed issues. I want to. Mary’s example shows me it’s possible to remember it’s about You.
As I celebrate Christmas, the sacred remembering of your incarnation, I give you all of me – again. I am your servant, let it be unto me, according to your word. I’m ready to share my treasures, my giftings, put feet to my calling, open my hands and say yes.