Sermon: I wish you a Mary Christmas
I Wish You a Mary Christmas
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-38
This holiday season fell on me like a ton of bricks. One minute, I was telling Alex it was too early to listen to Christmas music in the car, and it seemed like just a few days later it was time to wrap the presents. Even before Thanksgiving, my neighbors had already spread their roofs with more light wattage than you have in your house, and it is now too late for me to do anything to avoid being the black hole in my neighborhood. Inflated snowmen and light up reindeer stood watch in their yards, and I just let the dog in and out, let the cat in and out, and tried to ignore the fact that my neighborhood is packed with Christmas light viewers. In Louisiana last week, I donated to Salvation Army ringers, but, in my mind, they were jumping the gun. I have been in denial that ’tis the season. There it didn’t, but here it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas… And I’m not ready for it to be now.
I should be. We are four weeks into the season of Advent, the season of introspection and preparation for the birth of our savior. Here, we do so quietly, with carols and scripture, greens and dignity, and a hush falls over us as we are reminded that this season is His season. Oh yes, we say when we’re here. These are not just the holidays. These are the holy days. We light the candles and remember the reason for the season.
And then we go back to our real lives, the lives lived between what is commercial and jolly and what is sacred and hushed, in that place where we know what is possible and impossible. In that place in between what is commercial and jolly and what is sacred and hushed… that’s where we need what is coming. That’s where Mary had Christmas.
It’s a story that should be completely and utterly disturbing, but somehow it isn’t when its spoken in worship. It is a sacred story. In the commercial world, it is another nativity set to buy and display. In between those two places, there is the real life Christmas of Mary. An unwed but engaged teenager is visited by an angel and told that she has been chosen to give birth to the King of Heaven and Earth.
When the voice of God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and asked him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, Moses sad something like, “yeah, I bet the Hebrews are going to buy that.” He asked, “Why me?” He said, “but I don’t speak well.” He asked, “Can’t you send someone else?”
When the voice of God spoke to Mary through an angel, saying, “Okay now, teenage girl, God likes you and thinks you’d be a great mother for his only Son, so get ready because you’re going to you give birth, and you’ll be giving birth to God,” Mary simply asked, “How?”
And when the angel told her how, she said my very favorite line of scripture in the whole Bible: “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be with me according to His will.”
Mary was not told that someday she would be the most displayed woman in the world and that her image would sell like nobody’s business. Mary was not told that she would be revered and loved as the sacred mother. In her real life, which was about to be turned upside down, Mary asked, “How?” and then said, “Whatever God wants.”
I struggle with this. I would need much more information and at least a little input. I would probably need to build a timeline and talk it out with my Mom. I would definitely ask for some identification and I’d roll my eyes at least once. I mean, come ON… in my real life, where I know what is possible and what is impossible, it would take me a bit to wrap my head around this. But Mary asks one question and then agrees to something that will mean total upheaval in her life and in her family’s life and in the future of the world. Wow.
Why? Because she believes the angel. Because she believes him when he says that nothing will be impossible with God. Because she believes, deeply. Because Mary let God come into her real life and bring Christmas to the world.
While the holiday season crashes around me, hollering, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!,” I am stopped in my tracks by Mary’s Christmas. I want that kind of Christmas. I want a Mary Christmas. I want a Christmas that will turn my world upside down. I want that depth of faith, that down in my belly, deep in my core belief that nothing is impossible with God. I want to be pregnant with his possibilities, not just in a hushed and worshipful church and not around my Christmas trees with presents. I want to be ready to give birth to Jesus Christ in my real life, in that space between what is commercial and jolly and what is sacred and hushed. I want God in my face and on my mind. I want to find God in unexpected places, in times when I’m not prepared to face Him. I want him shoved into that space between what is commercial and conventional and what is holy and surprising, in my life, in my every day, in that area in which the real me finally comes out. I want to be so dedicated to God that when God shows up in my real life and asks me to do something, even if it will turn my life upside down, I want to say only, “Behold the handmaiden of the Lord.”
I want a Mary Christmas, for you and for me.
I want him up in your business, not just in your Sunday. I want God to show up in your real life and in expected and unexpected times and places. I want him in your Advent and in your Christmas, in your New Year and in your golden days of yore. I want him in your face and on your mind and so deeply imbedded in the fabric of you that when he comes to you this Christmas, you say “yes” to him in a way that you never have even felt invited to before.
And I absolutely believe it’s all going to happen, not because the stockings are hung by the chimney with care in hopes that our savior child soon will be there, but because NOTHING will be impossible with God.
Nothing will be impossible with God. Not for God. Not by God. With God. With God.
Nothing will be impossible with God. Are you with God? You down with God? At church? When you string up lights so your house isn’t the only one not celebrating his birth? Or in your real life? In that place where you know what is possible and impossible, are you with God? Will you let God into that place in your life where what is essentially you really dwells and where your real decisions are made? In between ideal and fun?
Will you let God’s light shine even there? Are you with God?
This is the season of Advent, His season, time to say “I wanna be WITH God, and I give up knowing in my real life what is possible and impossible. I wanna be with God in my real life, and I want him to turn all impossibilities into possibilities. I want God to destroy my limitations. I want God to use me how God will. Behold, the servant of the Lord.”
Advent is a time to get pregnant with all possibilities. Advent is a time to prepare to give birth to Jesus Christ in our lives, in the world, a time to say “YES!”to whatever God asks of us, a time when our only question to God should be “how?”. We don’t have a lot of time left in Advent, but God only needs a moment to rock our worlds.
May God find his way through all our expectations and into our real lives this season, and may we have a Mary Christmas, a Christmas of possibilities, a Christmas of light, a Christmas of yes. I wish you and me a Mary Christmas. Amen.