READINGS: 2 Samuel 7:1-11 ~ Canticle 18 ~ Luke 1:26-38
Its been 11 years since we celebrated Advent 4 and Christmas Eve on the same day. This morning we listen to the story of the annunciation – of Gabriel’s visit to Mary. Then we fast forward 9 months so that, tonight, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
But it all begins with Mary saying yes to God’s plan. And that’s important because it not only tells us something about the character of Mary, but it tells us something that is vital to our understanding of God. God does not drag us into stuff or impose things on us without our okay. This is a partnership –albeit not one of equals – which makes it all the more important that God respects our free will. And that makes it a life lesson for how we treat one another; especially the vulnerable. God is simply not into bullying or exploiting people and neither should we.
Mary could have said thanks for the offer, God, but no thanks. And there is every reason for her to say ‘No thank you’. In her day, for a young woman to suddenly and unaccountably find herself with child was not just awkward … it was darn right dangerous. So, God does not impose this pregnancy on Mary but waits for her ‘Yes.’
Our faith history shows us that God invites the most unlikely people to help move the story forward.
You may remember that the great kind David was once a shepherd boy, the youngest of his family. When we meet David this morning he is at the pinnacle of his career and Israel is enjoying a time of peace. Being able to both enjoy and reflect on the moment, David offers to build God a temple. But through the prophet Nathan, God says, ‘Thanks but no thanks. Instead, I will make you a house, a dynasty that will last forever.’
This reading is deliberately coupled with this morning’s gospel because according to our tradition, Jesus is a descendent of King David, as the song says, great David’s greater son, which takes us back to Mary and Joseph, who are both decedents of David.
Poor Joseph doesn’t really get a lot of air time in the gospels. But in Matthew’s gospel, he also gets to decide whether or not to be part of this story. We all know that Joseph chooses to take the pregnant Mary as his wife. But he could have walked away. He could have sent her away. But he doesn’t. He chooses to allow himself to be part of the story; not as a star but in a supporting role in God’s plan.
So, what does this mean for us today?
For one thing – it means that God sometimes challenges the boundaries of culture and religion, by choosing to work outside the established order in most unlikely and sometimes scandalous ways. We can no more constrain the imagination of our God than David could build a temple big enough to contain God. Such is the story of Emmanuel, God with us. So, when it comes to God we need to expect the unexpected.
And if God comes knocking at our door to ask us to do something … and we start thinking, ‘Oh, I could never do that’, we might want to think of David and Mary and Joseph and the host of other unlikely heroes of our faith. For God wants to be with us, working in us, moving the story forward into new possibilities.
Advent is a time that reminds us that life is pregnant with new possibilities if we are willing to say Yes to God. That’s when Mary’s song becomes our song as –
Our souls magnify the Lord,
and our spirits rejoice in God our Saviour … for the Mighty One does great things for us
and holy is God’s name.
As we reflect on this, we are going to give Joseph a tad more air time as we listen to Joseph’s Lullaby.