Mary’s Christmas Vocation
December 23, 2007
Mary was given a sacred assignment. She was given a vocation: a sacred task to do for God. For this is what a vocation is: a sacred assignment.
Vocation: a sacred assignment
Everyone has a vocation. Mary’s was a Christmas vocation. No Christmas vacation for Mary. Her sacred task was to prepare God’s son. Can you imagine what an awesome responsibility that is? We tremble at raising our own children but God’s son? No wonder the nations would call her blessed.
Just remember that vocation is more than a job although your job can be your vocation. Speaking of jobs, I have picture that I want to show you of a cake ordered at Wal-mart. This actually did happen. Kinda weird isn’t it.
This was a cake for an employee that was leaving her job as an insurance claims adjuster. Here’s how the phone call to order the cake went:
“Dis’ iz duh Wal-mart bakery?”
“I’d like to order a quarter sheet chocolate cake.”
“And on it. I would like an inscription.”
“Ok. Wha’ you want on it?”
“’Best Wishes Suzanne.’ And underneath that, ‘We will miss you.’”
As we rediscover Christmas, we have looked at Zechariah and Elizabeth, their son John, and Joseph. Each of them played at part in preparing the way of Jesus. And in a sense this is what following Jesus is about. We follow his ways, his Shema of loving God and loving others, in order to prepare ourselves and others for his abiding presence. All the things that Jesus calls us to do in the Sermon on the Mount are designed to prepare us for God’s kingdom that is arriving as we walk in God’s ways.
Mary also prepared the way for Jesus. So let’s take a closer look at her.
Who was Mary?
1. Mary was poor.
Mary was a part of the poor crowd called the Anawim: the pious poor. These people suffered because they were poor. Mary’s song is the gospel before the gospel. It has as part of it the recognition that God has heard the cries of the poor for justice, mercy, & compassion. God has heard their cries for redemption and has answered it through a miraculous child.
Mary’s song is the cry of a very young girl, a young teenager, that has no rights and is locked into a system that oppresses the poor. Not only that it is a song of release. She has heard what the angel has said and recognized that she now will be labeled an adulteress. Her life, what little of it that she had, will now be completely undone. Her future is uncertain but she still trusts in the Mighty One and the future that God is bringing through her child.
This means that although Mary was poor, an Anawim, she had hope.
2. Mary had hope.
Mary’s song is announcing a social revolution. She was putting Herod the Great on notice. She was putting Caesar on notice. They will be dealt with by God. Unlike Herod, Mary’s son will rule with mercy and justice.
Mary, who was given a sullied reputation and was poor, has a hope that God, who is the Mighty One (All-Powerful), is fulfilling the promises that God had made to His people so long ago. God uses Mary despite her past and despite the odds that are against her to prepare His son. Mary knew her own wounds, but she also knew that God was about to heal those wounds with a sacred assignment: a vocation.
3. Mary was given a vocation.
We also are given a vocation with our past and our wounds intact so that all can see us and see what God can do. Even Jesus would be resurrected with the scars intact.
Mary’s vocation as already mentioned was to prepare God’s son. She was being called to nurture not only Jesus but several other children as well. Tradition has it the Joseph died when Jesus was very young so Mary was also given the task of teaching Jesus and the other children the ways of God. Mary’s song gives a glimpse of some of the things that Mary would impart to her kids.
She blesses the holy Name of God and asks God to fill those who are hungry. Jesus would teach his disciples to pray asking God to “hallow His name” and to pray for “our daily bread.” As Mary is a widow, Jesus prays for widows and has a special place in his heart for widows just a God has indicated through the prophets. Mary prays that the unjust rulers would be brought down and Jesus regularly confronts leaders and rulers especially religious leaders are are supposed to see that justice is done but they are not. These rulers have chosen to make a spectacle of themselves and elevate themselves by stepping on the poor.
Mary lays the foundation for Jesus’ own adaptation of the Shema. She prepares Jesus for doing God’s work. Not only that she lays the groundwork for God to create a new Israel and a new people that would seek to be citizens of God’s kingdom instead of their own kingdom.
This is seen by the names of those that she raised alongside of Jesus. Now we generally believe that these children were the siblings of Jesus. Joseph and Mary’s children but not all followers of Jesus adhere to this. Some believe that James for example was a cousin. The idea is that Mary remained a virgin even after Jesus was born. Some believe that the children were Joseph’s from a previous marriage (although this is less credible). I spoken with a few who believe that these kids were cousins and there is a reading of scripture that seems to support this. I don’t think this is really that important and especially should not be a point of debate and argument, which would be opposed to the ways of Jesus.
What is important is that Mary raised these kids (at least 2 girls and 4 boys [plus Jesus]) and what the boys were named. According to Matthew Mary and Joseph lived in Egypt for a short time. It is clear that the children were immersed in the story of Israel and God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. This by the way is the great hope of the Anawim. The boys were all named for the Israel’s sons: Yakov (James), Yosef (Joseph), Yehudah (Judah), and Shimeon (Simeon). Add Jesus (Yeshua or Joshua) and the names of these five boys tell the story of Israel’s liberation from slavery.
What a huge vocation!!! As Mary raises these children, their names evoke her Anawim hope that God’s kingdom was being inaugurated.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers
This is the Christmas vocation of Mary. It is reminder that everyone of us is special to God. Every person is called to work for God. It is not about finding out what it is that God wants you to do. That is more self-centered than God-centered.
Os Guinness said, “The truth is not that God is finding us a place for our gifts but that God has created us and our gifts for a place of his choosing—and we will only be ourselves when we are finally there.”
Part of recognizing God’s rule of our lives is seeing that we are right where God wants us to be. Sure sometimes we get the impression that God is calling us to go somewhere else. Perhaps our time doing a ministry or a career is coming to an end but usually these are simply stepping stones to the next thing that God has already been preparing for us to do next.
What if we look at our jobs or a our place in life as a sacred assignment: a vocation. What if the company that you are working for is the place that God has put you into to do His will and be His servant. Colossians reminds us that everything we say or do is to be for the glory of God.
What if what we did during the week is really what is sacred? Reading meters, renting boats, selling furniture, hanging dryway, shoveling snow, babysitting, sitting at a computer, changing diapers, eating meals, even having sex. What if all these were things that are supposed to be sacred assignments to the glory of God. It may not mean that we work differently (or it may if we slack off too much) but it may just mean a change of attitude and outlook enabling us to see the beauty of God’s creation and God’s work around us.
John Mackie was the president of the Church of Scotland after WWII. He traveled to a remote parts of the Balken Peninsula to check on missionaries that they supported. On one trip he was accompanied by two ministers from a severe and pietistic denomination that supported the same missionaries.
These three visited an Orthodox priest in a small Greek village. The priest was excited by their visit and wanted to show them the best hospitality as if they were Jesus himself that had come to visit. So he offered them a glass of some rare and expensive wine. Horrified, the two pious ministers refused. Dr. Mackie, on the other hand, took a glass, sniffed it like wine connoisseur, sipped it, praised it quality, and thanked the priest for such a rare and gracious gift. He even asked for another glass. His companions were noticeably upset with Dr. Mackie’s behavior.
Later when they were on their way again and out of the village, the two pious clergymen confronted Dr. Mackie.
“Dr. Mackie,” they said, “do you mean to tell us that you are the president of the Church of Scotland and an officer of the World Council of Churches and you drink?”
They obviously had already judged and convicted him.
Dr. Mackie had seen their expressions and the looks that they had given each other and he had had enough. His Scottish temper got the best of him and he said, “No! I don’t drink!! But somebody had to be a Christian back there!”
Vocations are pretty easy. What is God doing where you are at? How is God working there? Remember, God uses our wounds and our past to show what it is that God can do. Sometimes we spend so much time looking for the big assignment of God’s will or we simply lament our inadequacies that we miss the sacred assignment that we are in right now that is preparing us for the next assignment and so on and so on.
Christmas is about finding a baby named Jesus that gives hope to the us and the world. Maybe we can proclaim with Mary:
My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.