The following is a paraphrased summary of a presentation given by Amanda DeWitt as part of a series of Advent Luncheon Speaking Events held at First Christian Church in Danville, Kentucky on December 3, 2018. Amanda is currently a Divinity student at Phillips Seminary and a community dialogue coordinator at Centre College. All errors and misrepresentations of the presenter’s words are my own (Benjamin Knoll).
This time of year, we often think of Mary as the mother of Jesus. Today let’s think about her as a prophet, someone who speaks for God to proclaim God’s salvation to us in the world.
The core message of the Bible is God turning the world upside down. God takes our structures and ways of thinking and turns them inside out. God is not contained by the limits or rules that we try to impose upon God. God is revolutionary and cannot be contained. Mary prophecies to us about this nature of God.
When Angel Gabriel appears to Mary in Luke’s gospel, he announces to her: “You have found favor with God. … You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.”
Like most of God’s prophets in the Bible, Mary responds to this call with doubts of her own ability. “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” From this we learn that God chooses unlikely people to carry out God’s purposes. Moses, Abraham, Sarah, David, Mary, all expressed doubts of their call from God. Mary was not a likely candidate. She was not wealthy or married. She was a refugee. But God does not play by our rules. God chooses the lowly and meek to carry out God’s plans.
Like other prophets in the Bible, Mary accepts this call, despite her hesitations. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Like the other Biblical prophets, Mary prophesies. She acts as the mouthpiece of God to deliver God’s message.
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary prophesies of a God who is saving people here and now, not only after death in heaven. God’s work of salvation now will be made possible because her son will lead a life where God transforms the cross. God will take the cross, a horrible weapon of death, and will turn it into peace, compassion, and holy presence. Mary prophesies that God will flip our paradigms.
In our paradigm, we live in a world of hunger, homelessness, and discrimination where children are shot in schools and gassed at the border. In contrast, God’s paradigm feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, beats our weapons of war into plowshares, assures us that our skin color does not define our humanity, and affirms that every child is as precious as the One in the manger.
The first week of Advent focuses on the theme of “hope.” We have hope because we worship a God who is not contained by our labels or expectations. The people of Jesus’s day were expecting the Messiah to come as a worldly King. Instead, God sent his Presence to be born to a poor, unmarried single mother of a refugee family who can find only a barn and farm animals to stay with for the night.
The psalm of the prophetess Mary reveals to us that the realm of God’s presence can be present here on Earth with us, whoever and wherever we are. Amen.