As we stand with Mary and Joseph and anticipate the birth of the infant Jesus,
as we stay awake awaiting the return of Christ,
as we await the arrival of the Syrian family that we are sponsoring to come to Montreal,
we recall the words Mary spoke as she visited her cousin, Elizabeth:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for God has looked with favour on the lowliness of God’s servant …
God has scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts.
God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly …
God has helped God’s servant Israel, in remembrance of God’s mercy,
according to the promise God made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
(Luke 1:47-55, abridged and adapted)
Mary’s simple “yes” – her willingness to be God’s partner in the on-going work of healing Creation is elaborated upon in this prophetic song. By her willingness she magnifies (makes larger and clearer) God’s gracious character. Her hope for the future is founded on a confidence that God is faithful to the promise made to Abraham centuries earlier. She believes that God has demonstrated God’s faithful love to her people time and again.
Imagine, then, the shock of discovering that you must take the sign of God’s love among us, Emmanuel, and flee to another country for safety – and yet isn’t that what happens in our world in countless places a thousand times over? Each child, as well as every adult, is God’s own beloved, and yet because of our brokenness, our greed and fear, these beloved children of God must flee, just as Joseph and Mary took their young son, God’s son, and left their homeland to sojourn in Egypt and escape death.
Mary teaches us that her song, her “yes,” reaches beyond the boundaries of her own lifetime. This is the secret of our faith; we live in the brokenness of the present age even as we live in ‘the already, not yet’ time of redemption. And because of this paradox, because we believe in the graciousness of God’s redeemed and restored Creation, we choose to live with hope.
Mary and Joseph lived faithful, what we might now call “counter-cultural,” lives, and they taught their son, Jesus, this way of living. Mary and Joseph and Jesus chose to live in hope, they chose to say yes to God’s empowering love, even when it put them at risk with the earthly rulers who believed that if they threatened death, they wielded power over others.
Mary and Joseph were ordinary people who said “yes” to God – their willingness to partner with God, their “yes” has made of them extraordinary persons, the people who were entrusted to care for the vulnerable God who came among us, and they have been venerated by faithful people through the ages and around the world. Mary and Joseph provide for us models of courage and faithfulness. Jesus’ yes becomes our salvation – our wholeness and our joy.
We look to Mary, Joseph and Jesus as we prepare to welcome another family fleeing the the very real dangers of devastation and death. God help us open our hearts to people who, like us, desire the best for those they love.
God invites us to reject the normalcy of linking power to threat and destruction, God invites us to be empowered by the graciousness of life as embodied by Jesus. Let us be of good courage and choose life and blessing, knowing that this is God’s intention for the whole world. And may we, by the power of the Spirit, say “yes” to God – so that every one of us, each in our own way, makes more clear the mercy and grace of God.
[Editor’s note: Jan Jorgensen contributed this theological reflection to invite members of the parish to anticipate prayerfully a Syrian family our parish has applied to sponsor. Information meetings about the progress of this application are foreseen during January and February, 2017; for more details, to offer help, and to keep informed during this time of waiting, please contact her (revjjorgensen [at] yahoo.com) or Janet King (janetking131 [at] gmail.com).