Teacher: Today we are learning about Mary. Who Christians believe is the mother of Jesus.
Me: Mary, Jesus. They’re in the Christmas story.
Child: What Christmas story?
Me: You know, the reason why Christmas is celebrated. Mary and Joseph and Jesus...
Child: Oh yeh, from the Koran. My mum read some of it to me.
Me: No. Today we’re talking about Christianity. Do you know why Christmas is celebrated?
Me: Which religion celebrates Christmas?
Child: I don’t know.
Thus began RE day. A day in which the normal timetable of maths and literacy is scrapped and instead we talk about religious concepts. Today’s concept was Holy. In particular how Catholics see Mary as Holy.
I've seen several modernised versions of the Christmas story – my fave being Mary of the council estate. But if I’m honest I've never stopped to consider Mary. But today I realised that Mary's response to the angel Gabriel's message is amazing (actual AMAZE-to-the-ING not that over used and abused 'amazing' that we hear on every street corner used to describe everything slightly better than average).
There she is, going about her day when BAM! an angel appears – cue the angelic chorus. The angel tells her that she’ll have a baby, the very Son of God and messiah that they have been waiting for, by the Holy Spirit and she is to call him Jesus. The angel then tells Mary that her cousin who everyone knew as being unable to have kids was actually six months pregnant. The angel then finishes the message with "For nothing is impossible with God." To which Mary replies “I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
I find this incredible. An angel comes and gives her life transforming news that not only is God with her, but she will become pregnant with the Son of the Most High who will save the world and Mary responds with “I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”
I can't imagine my reaction being quite the same.
There I am going about my day - on the packed train on the way to work/getting some exercise books from the supply cupboard/cooking dinner/chilling with friends (my life is exciting). When BAM! an angel appears. Cue the angelic chorus. I’ve never had an angel personally deliver me a message but I’m guessing it’s like one of those hinge moments in life when you become oblivious to what is happening around you. You know, like when Luke discovered who Darth Vader really was or when Elizabeth danced with Darcy for the first time. Everything else slips away and your sole focus is what is right in front of you.
What if the angel then told me that I was going to run a multinational development social enterprise that would help lift thousands of people from poverty? What if the angel told me I was going to be lead singer in a band that would be bigger than the Spice Girls, Mumford and Beyonce combined? What if God told me I would play a pivotal role in world history? What if God told me I would play a pivotal role in local history? What if God told me I would play a pivotal role in one other person's life?
I can tell you that unlike Mary my reaction would probs me much more like, "Me? You’re talking to me? Are you sure?" And then, much like Sarah (check Genesis) I would probably have laughed in fear and doubt (maybe my parents did prophetically name me after all). I would have laughed because I feared the path described before me. I would have laughed not because I doubt God, but because I doubt myself. The immensity of the task and journey ahead would sing and dance in my thoughts more than the quiet confidence of God who can use us despite our perceived failings.
It must have been Mary's quiet confidence that got her through the next few days of conversations with Joseph and her family that would have been so Jeremy Kyle...
Pan to Jezza “Let’s meet Mary. She’s engaged to be married and pregnant but her fiancé is not the baby’s Father. She says an angel told her to call the baby Jesus and he will be the son of God. Her fiancé, a carpenter, is sticking by her. But their families want some answers. Let's bring them out.”
Mary had a confidence in a God who can do all things. Even if those things are life alteringly big. Mary had a confidence in God who can do all things despite the immensity of the tasks ahead.