Summary: The first week of Advent 2010
26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38 "I am the Lord’s servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Mariology – To Bethlehem: Through Art!
The Christmas Story is one that most of us know extremely well. As Christians, we have been rehearsing this event for over 2,000 years now… you could call it an old hat. It’s beautiful and slightly strange to us… we almost don’t know how to translate it into our modern day understandings. So we play it out as best we can, with little boys in their father’s bathrobes playing shepherds, angels with paper wings, children dressed up as animals, Joseph, the baby in the manger… and of course Mary. Mary is a central figure in the manger scene, but it’s hard for us to know what it was like for her.
Understanding Mary has been something that we have always struggled with. In fact, there has been so much time spent on it and so much effort put into it, that Mary has her very own branch of Theology known as “Mariology.” I’m not even making that up. Throughout history, our views of Mary have changed, have grown, and have been reevaluated. Much like the art we looked at this morning, the views have ranged from an almost godlike Mary to just a normal mother loving and sacrificing for her child.
1) Catholic – Veneration
2) Protestant – Humility before God, her obedience and her openness to the Word.
3) Anglican – the blessed “God Bearer”
It’s hard to get any real grasp on Mary from just our Christmas accounts. Even though her story is tremendously interesting… she is not really the main character. Christ is. And that is the fine line we walk whenever we study Mary. Mary is important, but never more important than Christ. Even Catholics who venerate Mary take this approach: even Pope Pius XII, "the most Marian Pope in Church history” warned against exuberant exaggerations about Mary even as he cautioned about timid minimalism in the presentation of Mary. Anglican’s hold a special spot for Mary as the one who was the actual mother of God but they would never claim her to be God! And we Protestants take the an extremely minimalist approach. We believe she is no different than anyone of us sitting here today, God could just as easily have come to Mary and Joseph of Fairbury. So, we take a different approach, and look at Mary as an example to be followed as she answered her call and lived in service. Holding all of that before us, let us look to our scripture today, and look at this girl Mary.
The very first time that Mary appears in the Scriptures, she is in the presence of an angel. How’s that for a grand entrance. We learn that she was already engaged. Most marriage agreements were made when the children were fairly young. In all likelihood when Gabriel spoke to her, Mary was probably only 13 or 14 years old, still living with her parents.
Imagine that, 14 years old and being told that you would become pregnant… and the father was NOT going to be your fiancé! I imagine at that moment we would not see the quiet, serene, peaceful Mary that we so often adore during Christmas pageants. As Mary listened to the angel she must have wrestled with all of the problems that she would have if she accepted God’s call. How am I going to explain this to my family? What will Joseph say? What about the townspeople? What will they think of me? Am I headed for a life of being a single parent? Mary would probably live her whole life under a cloud of suspicion from her family and neighbors.