On the Road to Bethlehem
“There is a reason Mary is everywhere. I've seen her image all over the world, in cafés in Istanbul, on students' backpacks in Scotland, in a market stall in Jakarta, but I don't think her image is everywhere because she is a reminder to be obedient, and I don't think it has to do with social revolution. Images of Mary remind us of God's favor. Mary is what it looks like to believe that we already are who God says we are.” ― Reverend Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People
This coming Sunday marks the “Pink Candle” Sunday of Advent, when we celebrate that Christmas is no longer far away, but just around the corner. More than that, it’s when we Protestants read in their Gospel about Mary, the pregnant vessel, the agent by which Jesus will enter our world, God’s unlikely choice to serve such a pivotal role in changing the whole world.
When we meet Mary, she has gone to visit relatives, already showing that there was new life inside. They welcome her inside warmly –- not like some of the wagging tongues in her own village who know she wasn’t betrothed when this happened. She does not voice bitterness. Mary instead sings a song of joy, and of acceptance of God’s will.
Church Services on Sunday
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Mary in 2020
The phone rang in my office yesterday. On the other end was a modern day Mary, weeping softly through her desperation. She told me had been living locally but lost her job and her apartment. She was living in her car, had no money for food and – yes – she was pregnant. Some of her family living down south wanted her to drive down and come live with them. But she did not have enough gas money to make it there. She asked me if we could help somehow.
I recognized the "Mary" in her voice, and the courage it took to ask a complete stranger for help. Would I help her, or would I look at her with judgment like so many other people, thinking “well if you have no money for food and no place to live, why weren’t you thinking about this when you got pregnant?”
I chose to remember that, in an indifferent world, downtrodden people are more hungry for love than food. Sometimes they choose unwisely just to feel that being wanted by someone –- anyone –- makes them feel worthy of being loved.
On the Road to Bethlehem
It seemed providential that we only had two gas cards and two food cards left –- just enough. Modern Day Mary’s face beamed as she came to the church door and thanked us for helping her. It was a real-life, “Pink Candle” joy that told the story that now she would make it to her own Bethlehem. These “Pink Candle” moments are the very ones that are made possible whenever someone chooses to give their support to our church and its missions. This includes our ability to operate a Thrift Shop that provides clothing and household items when the road to Bethlehem has roadblocks, like job loss or catastrophic house fires.
So this Christmas, please remember the glow of the candle of Joy. Working together, we are the ones who are able to light it.