Today's Lectionary Text
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Since becoming a mom in September, Mary has been on my mind. Hearing her story during Advent after giving birth brought the Christmas story to life in new ways I’d never experienced before. I felt a connection with her as one who carried life in my very being, and it makes me a little sad that Protestant churches downplay her role in our redemption story.
The Catholic and Orthodox traditions venerate her as a saint, though. There’s even a special name for her: Theotokos, which means “God-bearer.”
Mary literally carried the eternal one inside her womb because Jesus is fully divine. There’s an ancient hymn that goes like this: “He whom the entire universe could not contain was contained within your womb, O Theotokos.”
Lest we confine the God-bearer herself to a character in our nativity sets we unpack once a year, I invite you to read Mary’s origin story with fresh eyes today.
God asks Mary to do something new in her that will change the course of history, and Mary consents, saying, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be just as you have said.”
So, God places inside her womb the seed that takes root and begins to grow. Her heart beats a little faster than normal, and she feels a little queasy. She finds herself craving strange foods she never really thought twice about before.
And she is tired.
Her joints loosen up and her muscles and skin stretch, and her feet swell. She waddles just a little bit. And she is so tired.
The Braxton Hicks contractions begin as she travels 90 miles to Bethlehem to register for a census. Imagine making trek to Bethlehem on the last week of pregnancy. I rode a plane to Chicago in my third trimester, and it almost killed me.
They finally get to Bethlehem, but later than everyone else (obviously -- there’s only so much walking you can do in a day when you’re that pregnant), and there’s nowhere for her to stay except for a cave.
Her body takes over, like it does when you go into labor, and she strains and screams and pushes and finally -- her son, who holds the universe in his hands.
I don’t know how Mary felt, but I know how I felt when my son Finnegan was lying on my chest for the first time. Exhaustion, confusion, fear, joy, pride. Everything was about to change.
Mary is the one who held Jesus within her very being. The one who consented to God doing something new within her. God-bearer. We, too, can be God-bearers.
When you consent to God, there’s no guarantee that it will be easy. It will stretch you, like it stretched Mary’s belly. It will make you tired, like it made Mary tired. It will cramp you, squeeze you, make you push and cry out. It will be like labor, as you birth something new that God is doing within you. And all the while, you will feel confusion, pain, fear, but also when it’s over, relief, joy, pride. And it will never be the same again. But it will be better.
I wonder. What new thing is God asking to do within you?
-Rev. Melissa Collier Gepford
Intergenerational Discipleship Coordinator
Prayer for Reflection
Holy God, who created the universe -- we know that you are making all things new, that you are doing new things in us. Give us the courage to be like Mary, the first disciple, who said, “I am a servant of the Lord. May it be so.” Amen.
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