Mary, Nazareth girl, what did you know of ethereal beings with messages from God?
What did you know of men when you found yourself with child?
What did you know of babies, you, barely out of childhood yourself?
God-chosen girl; What did you know of God that brought you to this stable
most blessed among women?
Could it be that you had been ready, waiting, listening for the footsteps of an angel?
Could it be that there are messages for us if we had the faith to listen?
Ann Weems “Mary, Nazareth Girl” Kneeling in Bethlehem p.25
So Ann Weems beautifully probes the mind, faith and expectations of Mary, and so invites us to probe our minds, our faith and our expectations. Faith and expectations, especially when it comes to the things of God, need to be geared towards surprises and wonder, towards the surprising and wonder – full and wonder – filled ways God works through the events and people in our lives, like the times God comes to us in ways we do not expect and through events and people we would never expect. With God we have to have faith to see the unexpected and even expect the unexpected. With God we have to be in tune to things of wonder and mystery so we can be touched by the wonder – full and wonder – filled, mysterious, things of God. We have to have eyes to see and a faith to understand the surprising and wonderful moments of God in our lives. We have to have a sense of wonder and awe when we are dealing with the things of God.
Mary may not have known much about men or babies, but Mary knew how to have her eyes to see and faith to understand the surprising and wonderful moments of God in her life. What a surprise Gabriel’s visit and message must have been to Mary.
Imagine that you are Mary. You are poor. You live in Nazareth in the Roman province of Palestine. The year is somewhere around what we now term as 30AD. You have had a very humble upbringing. You are not unusual or extraordinary in any way. You are a very typical, poor, young Hebrew girl. You live a very average life. Like most girls your age, you are engaged to be married. You are engaged to Joseph, a man somewhat older than you. He is a carpenter. You hope his business will continue to prosper. How you would love to not have to constantly worry if you will have enough flour to bake bread for the next day. In other words, you are a typical, poor, simple, ordinary Jewish girl, nothing extraordinary, and you feel that there isn’t much in store for you in life besides that of being a peasant in Nazareth.
Or at least that’s what you think. Then the most surprising, wonder – full — wonder – filled thing happens. One day an angel appears to you. The angel tells you that the Messiah, the one you and your people had prayed for for centuries, was finally coming. The one hoped for to establish David’s throne forever, the fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy to David, was coming. The prayers of your people were going to be answered and you were going to be the one to bring the Messiah into the world.
You are ecstatic with joy. The Messiah is coming. David’s throne will be established forever just as Nathan said. God is actually going to answer prayers. But you be the one to bring the Messiah into the world? You be the one to bring the one to forever establish David’s throne into the world? It made little sense. It is too wonder – full — too wonder – filled — to be true. Just as Nathan’s message to David years ago this is indeed a surprise! It is indeed a surprise. But you remember that throughout your people’s history God has come in surprising, wonder – full — wonderful – filled ways. You praise God and although you are confused and scared you praise God for His surprising — wonder – full — wonder – filled ways.
God establishing David’s throne forever and doing it through you? Not exactly what you would expect is it?
It is surprising. It is full of wonder. It is wonder – full. It is wonder – filled. But it is God. God, who comes to us in awe-inspiring ways, in ways that are filled with wonder, ways that are wonder – full and wonder – filled. Indeed, when it comes to God we have to come to see and expect the awe – inspiring, wonder-full, wonder-filled ways of God. But I’m afraid we have lost our ability to see and expect the things of God. We seem to have lost the ability to see and experience and realize the wonder and awe of God’s work in our lives. We seem to have lost our sense of wonder and amazement at the things of God or things of life in general. Our ability to be filled with wonder and amazement at the things of God or anything else in the world is not what it can or maybe even should be.
G. K. Chesterton was an English priest and author who gave this illustration about how we lose our sense of wonder and awe as we grow older and the world is more a part of us. He says tell the following sentence to three groups of children: – ten year olds, six year olds, and three year olds. The sentence he suggests is this:
The man slowly crept up the steps — he put his hand on the knob of the door — and turned it slowly — slowly — slowly — when suddenly out jumped out — A DRAGON!
Chesterton contends that when you tell this to ten year olds, their eyes begin to get filled with wonder as the dragon jumps from the door. Six year olds, however, would start getting a sense of wonder and awe as the man turned to doorknob.Three year olds, however, begin to react with wonder and awe as the man slowly climbs the steps.
Chesterton’s point is that we lose our sense of wonder and praise as we get older. He believes we need to regain that sense of wonder, because as we lose the wonder and amazement from our lives we lose our ability to recognize and take part in the wonder – full and wonder – filled things of God.
Indeed, our sense of wonder and amazement at the things of God has pretty much been lost. Just look at how we celebrate Christmas. We have completely programmed surprise and wonder out of Christmas, haven’t we? We give and receive gifts based on what we want or can use with little or no regard to the fact that something we never thought of, something that is a complete surprise, something that is so wonderful we would have never expected or asked for it, may indeed be the best gift of all. We are scared to venture to buy someone a g ift that would be a complete surprise, so we ask them to give us a list to choose from and even number the suggestions as to which would be the most appreciated.
Not much surprise to it at all. Not much room for surprises. Not much room for wonder. Not much room for the surprising, wonder – full – – wonder – filled things of God. Not much room for God at all. But friends, Christmas is about a real surprise. It is about a real wonder – filled event. The coming of Christ into our world is the most surprising, the most wonder – full — wonder – filled event that has ever occurred. Christmas is about being full of awe and wonder at the ways of God. It is about a total reversal of our want – list as Christ comes into our lives and changes all aspects of our lives with the glory of God.
It indeed needs to be a wonder – full and wonder – filled time. Maybe Mary knew that. Maybe she had been looking for that. Maybe she was looking for the wonder – full and mysterious ways of God. Maybe she was able to have a sense of awe and wonder at the things of God in her life and that is what made her able to see the angel as it stood before her.
We need to have a life of wonder, a life full of the wonder of the things of God. We need to have a sense of wonder at the things of God. We need a sense of surprise at God’s work. We need a sense of awe and wonder at God’s work.
We need a wonder – full Christmas. We need a Christmas full of the love of God, seeing God all around us, and celebrating the wondrous fact that God has come into our world. We need to have a wonder – full life, seeing and realizing and celebrating the We need to have a wonder – full life — seeing and realizing and celebrating the wonder – full things of God in our lives. Yes, we need to have a wonder – full Christmas.
Indeed — as Weems writes:
Could it be that there are messages for us if we had the faith to listen?
Have faith .Re-gain that sense of wonder and surprise at the things of God in the world. Be more like Mary. Have eyes to see and faith to understand the surprising and wonderful moments of God in our lives, in our community, and in our world. See the surprising ways God comes into our lives and world and commit yourself to serving this God who came to Mary in a surprising way and continues to come to each of us in surprising ways, if we will just be willing to see and be a part of His work in our lives and world.
Be more like Mary.
Have a Mary Christmas. Amen.