As we end the third week of advent and prepare to enter the fourth and final week we turn our attention to Luke’s accounts of Mary’s preparation for the birth. Today we reflect on the shock, joy, confusion, and acceptance when Mary hears the big news. Reflecting on these experiences gives us a more personal sense of the human birth story we are about to celebrate. We might use some of today to recall stories and memories of when we heard news of a pregnancy (ours or someone else’s). First pregnancies have particularly poignancy because you know that your whole life is about to change in ways you could never imagine. A pregnancy before the socially acceptable time, such as Mary’s, adds an additional element of stress, to put it mildly. What do we learn about Jesus by contemplating on this experience of his mother? Can we imagine Jesus hearing about this event when he is older and how it might have shaped his understanding of his ministry?
One aspect of Mary that Luke stresses is her “pondering” nature. Perhaps this is part of what makes her a great candidate for the calling of mother of Jesus. How much does this aspect of Mary’s personality help to shape the Jesus who refuses to react rashly and conventionally in so many ways? Her pondering and respectful questioning in the face of a very challenging and confusing assignment contrast with the belligerent response of Ahaz in the first reading. Ahaz is certain that he knows what is right and refuses to consider new ways that God may want to be present to him. Perhaps we have some stubborn resistance that we need to let go this Advent. As we consider the ways in which this Advent season challenges us to open ourselves more fully to the awesome reality that we are “full of grace” and that the “Lord is with us” Mary’s pondering posture bears emulating. How can it be? What can it mean? How do we more fully become a handmaiden of the Lord?
The psalm for today provides very fitting background music for contemplating Mary’s experience and our own – let the Lord enter – recognize the Lord’s majesty – seek not what is vain – seek the face of God.
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