When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, Let It Be, And in my hour of darkness there is a still light that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, Let it Be
When this divine story was being imagined in the invisible world, I wonder how long and complicated and exciting was the time that the story was being written, and the characters being casted. How many stories wound up in the reject bin for the Christ story? There must have been submissions that included royal families, brave warriors, mighty leaders, and successful merchants. Stories that casted a prince as the father and beautiful princess as mother. Perhaps there were many of the story boards that had the Christ growing up in a palace, like Moses. Becoming King, like David, being wealthy and powerful beyond imagination like Solomon. I wonder how many laughed or guffawed when the final script was chosen? The one that had an unwed betrothed girl, the daughter of a lowly family to be the womb the child would be conceived? I wonder if there was great ridicule hurled at the heavenly being who suggested the father, the guardian and master of the Holy Family, be of low social standing, a carpenter? Perhaps when the plot was announced a murmur was heard throughout the heavenly realms, “God must crazy!”
In her song Mary, does not proclaim that God is crazy, but instead “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.
The story in advent is that the divine incarnations are conceived from the humble, the quiet, the unexpected places, the unassuming vessels. The Christ would be conceived in the womb of a young woman who said, “Let it be done according to your will.” Mary responds to the angelic greeting, “God is with you,” she responds with beautiful surrender and affirmation, “I am with God.”
I imagine J.R.R. Tolkien was thinking of Mary when he chose who would be the ring-bearer in his epic trilogy, ”Lord of the Rings.” As he created all the different characters wielding all sorts of magical and great powers, it would be the least, the smallest, the most vulnerable in middle earth, a hobbit, who bring the ring to the fires of Mordor.
It seems the world’s civilizations, including our own, never seem to accept the chosen way God enters our world. As much as we insist and conjure the glory of God amidst the great and mighty, it is in the lowly where God manifests God’s presence. As much as we are drawn to the big, to the wow, to the awesome, to the impressive… God slips in unnoticed, unrecognized in the exalted places, but welcomed and seen in the lowly, and the broken places. History tells us time and again, we humans have always looked for God in all the wrong places.
The very gifts and message of advent, those for which each candle is lit: faith, hope, joy, and peace… I think there is a great cry for and a sad depletion of each of these in our culture and times. We have always been persuaded that God is in the blessing, the success, the prosperous, the popular. And so, as long as life is filled with success and strength and ability..then we are satisfied that God is with us. And God is. But the Christ story, and especially the chapter of Advent, tells us where and how God enters into lives that are lowly, God is conceived amidst the humble, the broken, the poor, the downcast. God fills the hungry with good things, and grants strength to the weak.
If there is a growing dearth of the gifts of faith, and hope, and love, and peace, it might be that we have forgotten the way that God enters our world. There in the lowly and hungry and quiet and sad, there in the recovering, the dying, the failing, the alone. When no one else seems to be looking, God is inhabiting. When all the attention is over there, God is here. When the luck, the fortune, the fame is drifting upward, the grace, the peace, the divine child is in the womb of the lowly servant. While the king sleeps upon the royal bed, the incarnation of God sleeps upon the straw in the manger.
I think our spiritual journeys and the cultivation of our soul life is made difficult for many today because of the inundation of images of lavish and opulent life. We compare our lives to those created in images in the screen and something has happened to our ability to see the divine within us and amongst us. The wonder in Our life is lost because our eyes are fixed upon the virtual world upon the screen. Those images lead us on but ultimately leave us empty.
The world is filled with wonder and love, our life, our surroundings, our homes, our church is filled with the presence and incarnation of God. The gifts of peace, and joy, and faith, and hope, are there in the simple and quiet and lonely place. In the humble place.
So we who dwell in the low places, with our unknown, unseen, unimpressive, unspectacular lives. Be ready, have eyes open, and your humble yes prepared. For in these places God is conceived in our world.