As we prepare to walk down this final road leading to the manger, this last week of Advent no doubt looks different for each of us: some of us have runny noses to wipe and brains to wrack for dinner ideas; others have recalcitrant spreadsheets to wrestle into submission before shutting down the computer for a few days off. Some of us have heavy packs of sorrows and challenges that we have carried into the season while others have hearts full of laughter and lightness.
Mary’s story highlights the incredible good news that God’s promises come to pass right in the middle of our ordinary, silly, sad, or troubling times, to anyone and everyone who says yes to God. Even when we rightly focus on her humility, we are often in danger of constructing a Mary whose goodness elevates her above us, representing an ideal we can never reach. Yet Mary stands out from other women of God in biblical history who miraculously bear children precisely by her ordinariness. She is not an older woman renowned for piety, longsuffering, or exemplary wifely behavior who can be seen to ‘deserve’ God’s favor. Mary is an adolescent from a backwater town, betrothed to a carpenter, no priest’s or Pharisee’s wife or daughter, no cultured beauty. Nevertheless, she is blessed—simply because God chooses her—and she receives God’s gifts simply by saying yes.
Mary being chosen in all of her ordinariness, her simplicity, her smallness, reminds us that God works everywhere—even in the nitty-gritty stuff of the everyday. This is no faith restricted to the already-perfect, the spiritually elite, the intelligentsia or the popular, no chimera originating in emptily-echoing philosophers’ halls or in the mysteriously complex formulae of secret religious cults. The nativity is a historical event—the birth of God, in the flesh, to a woman in a small Judean town—occurring right in the midst of life to ordinary people like Mary, and thus to people like you and me. The gospel is a Person given to all people, each with our own particular sufferings, dreams, and situations, with the glad tidings that God loves us and is here among us, calling us each to make our lives and selves his tabernacles.
And so Jesus comes to us, too, giving us the chance to say yes to whatever his words are for our lives. We, too, can know what Mary knew as we live by her example: obedience to God in the midst of our varied daily lives builds his kingdom. We may come with hearts of content or hearts of sorrow, but if we say yes to him, our steps this week lead us to his manger, the fact of God with us, and to the joy of that reality. May we let this truth raise our expectations of God, lower our expectations on each other, and allow us each to rejoice in his presence this Christmas.
Hallelujah! Our King and Savior now draws near. Come, let us adore him.