Christmas and the Art of Waiting
(Posted December 16, 2021)
"Life is a flame that is always burning itself out, but it catches fire again every time a child is born." - George Bernard Shaw
It seems so fitting that this Sunday’s reading revolves around the women who are at the center of the Christmas story. After all, in this final Sunday of Advent, the season of waiting, women, especially those who are expecting a child, are masters of the “Art of Waiting.”
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In general, we humans as a species are not very adept at waiting, especially in this current era of “I want it NOW.” There is however, no DoorDash for baby delivery. Ask any pregnant woman and you will learn that she has to adapt to the fact that her interior is a “construction zone” she shares with one who is on the way, but at his own pace. With an occasional kick in the ribs to make sure she’s paying attention.
Masters of the Art
This Sunday we meet both Mary the soon-to-be mother of Jesus, and her cousin Elizabeth. Talk about mastering the art of waiting! Elizabeth had faced decades of infertility and the derision that went with it in a society that solely valued women for their baby-making capacity. But God not only chose Mary as the perfect person to usher his Son into the world; God also gave Elizabeth the role of mother to John, to be called The Baptist, who in his adulthood would pave the way for Jesus and his ministry. Mary, too, found herself the subject of gossip, when she turned up pregnant before her marriage to Joseph was completed.
A Woman’s Prophetic ‘Yes’
What’s wonderful about this Sunday is that, for one of the few times in either the Hebrew Bible or the New Testament, we hear the voice of a woman, and a prophetic voice at that, describing the blessed role that God has asked her to play.
Not only that, but in our Christian version of the story, Mary was given a choice to accept, and has said ‘yes.’
Yes not only to birthing the Word of God, but to the pain that will follow as evil and power try to suppress his word.
Yes to the heartache of standing under the cross.
Sadly, it’s been too long within Protestantism that we’ve shied away from learning the beauty of Mary’s commitment to God’s will, and of her own role in starting Jesus in his public ministry at the wedding of Cana, by insisting that it was time to reveal who he was in changing water into wine.
This one Sunday of the year we Congregationalists get to hear Mary’s voice -– that the long-awaited Savior of the world has chosen her, and sleeps within her, until she and Joseph complete an arduous 90-mile trek through the mountains from Nazareth to tiny Bethlehem. The waiting is nearly over.