“Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you!”
These words from the angel Gabriel to Mary began the conversation that named for Mary the invitation God had placed on her life; the invitation to carry, birth and mother the child who would be named Jesus and called Son of God. Mary said “Yes” to the invitation and it would forever change her life. It was all a bit overwhelming for Mary as she began to ponder the implications of this visitation from Gabriel and the invitation from God.
Luke records a fascinating story of an encounter between Mary and her older cousin Elizabeth that happened immediately following Mary’s encounter with the angel.
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42 and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44 For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would bea fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1)
Jan Richardson in an advent reflection on this text writes:
In the home of Elizabeth, in the company of her cousin who is herself pregnant in most unusual circumstances, Mary finds what she most needs. Elizabeth gathers and enfolds her. Welcomes her. Blesses her.
In response to Elizabeth’s blessing, Mary sings. And how she sings! She sings of a God who brings down the powerful, who lifts up the lowly, who fills the hungry with good things. Strangely, wonderfully, Mary sings of a God who not only will do these things, but who has done these things. She sings as if God has already accomplished the redemption and restoration of the world.
O my friends, this is what a blessing has the power to do. The blessing that Elizabeth speaks and enacts through her words, her welcome, her gift of sanctuary: such a blessing has the power to help us, like Mary, speak the word we most need to offer. Such a blessing gives us a glimpse of the redemption that God, in God’s strange sense of time, has somehow already accomplished. Such a blessing stirs up in us the strength to participate with God in bringing about this redemption in this time, in this world.
Where will we go, like Mary, to find and receive such a blessing?
How will we open our heart, like Elizabeth, to offer it?
I love the reminder Jan gives of the power of blessing and the variety of forms it takes. The blessing of a welcoming and safe space. The blessing of kind words, of comforting words, of personal prophetic words, of truth telling words. The blessing of music and song and of so much more. And I love the reminder of the importance of receiving and giving blessing to and from each other. We need each other! We need each other always, but maybe when we are together less, as we have been in 2020, we need the blessing of each other even more. That’s a challenge, but not one that can’t be overcome. Mary went with haste to the home of Elizabeth. We may need to go with haste to our phone and make that call, or to our email and send that note, or to that porch visit on a sunny day, or to the creative action the Spirit inspires within you to make meaningful connection.
Christmas reminds us that God inspires unconventional actions to accomplish amazing things. The restrictions of the pandemic may change the way we give and receive blessing. It may change our Christmas activities and even take away some things we really love. But this pandemic can’t take away the gifts of Christmas and the call of God on our lives. As the angel Gabriel reminded Mary, “nothing will be impossible with God!”
The Eastern Orthodox tradition calls Mary “Godbearer”, because she, quite literally, brought God into the world. And while God does not ask any of us to bring Christ into the world as literally as Mary did, God calls each of us to become a Godbearer through whom God may enter the world again and again. In that sense we are all “favoured” ones; we are all invited by God to bring blessing; to bring God into the world. If like Mary you desire to continue to say “yes” to God to be used by God, but it all feels a bit overwhelming, seek out the people you need. Receive your blessing, and then open your life to extend blessing to others! If we do that we will realize the presence of God and the gifts of Christmas all around us!
Tanya and I as your pastors desire to have a more personal chance to extend a blessing to you and to receive a blessing from you.
We are planning a Christmas Drive Thru as an opportunity to greet you. We invite you to set aside time on Sunday December 20 from 1-2 PM to drive through the church parking to share words of Christmas blessing. The Missions Committee also plans to be there to receive food items we will collect for Agape Fellowship’s Food Cupboard. We invite you to bring a food item or a cash donation along with you when you come. This is one way we can extend blessing to Agape in this difficult year. See Agape’s wish list of food items below.
We extend our thanks to Joe Wagler for building the HOPE sign at the front of our church building. This sign will be lit up each night as one way to extend blessing and a word of hope to the travellers along 16th Line.
May God help us to be people of blessing sharing HOPE, PEACE, JOY, LOVE, with each other and all those around us!