So much of our early Christmas planning revolves around logistics: getting the tree, putting up the lights, travel plans to be with family, and remembering others with apt gifts. We quickly reach the saturation point with all of that. We have done everything that is going to get done. We begin to wonder what it all means.
That vulnerable moment of asking what God was up to in Mary, Joseph, and Jesus is a wonderfully opportune moment for God’s grace to invade and stir us. And as we ask what it all means, it’s not about mounting an argument for God’s intervening in history. It is not about making a case for Jesus, human and divine.
If we “get it” at all at Christmas, we let the poetry God’s unlikely plan have its way with us. This Sunday, Gabriel comes to Mary, leading Mary to seek Elizabeth, before both erupt in wondrous song. Barbara Brown Taylor captures the moment and its suggestiveness for us. Will we follow Mary’s lead amid our own troubles?
Singing Ahead of Time
It was all happening inside of Mary, and she was so sure of it that
she was singing about it ahead of time—not in the future tense but in the past,
As if the promise had already come true.
Prophets almost never get their verb tenses straight,
Because part of their gift is being able to see the world as God sees it—
Not divided into things already over and things not happened yet,
But as an eternally unfolding mystery that surprises everyone—maybe even God.
In this divine dance we are all dancing,
God may lead but it is entirely up to us whether we will follow.
Just because God sends an angel to invite one girl on the dance floor
Is no guarantee that she will say ‘yes’.
Just because God sends a prophet to tell us how life on earth
Can be more like life in heaven does not mean any of us
Will quit our day jobs to make it so.
God acts. Then it is our turn.
God responds to us. Then it is our turn again.
The only thing absolutely sure in this scenario
Is we have a partner who is with us and for us and who wants us to have life.
Mary’s trust is really all she has. What she does not have is a sonogram,
Or a husband, or an affidavit from the Holy Spirit that says,
“The child is really mine. Now leave the poor girl alone.”
All she has is her unreasonable unwillingness to believe
That the God who has chosen her will be part of what happens next.
And that, apparently, is enough to make Mary burst into song.
She does not wait to see how things will turn out first.
She sings ahead of time, and all the angels with her.