In which I consider the Mary in all of us this Christmas

Can you imagine being Mary?

A shameful, out-of-wedlock pregnancy. A fiance’ who stays with her out of pity. A long, painful, obligatory journey to Bethlehem in her ninth month of pregnancy, and for what? To be counted in a census.

And the inn–there were no private rooms at the inn. We’ve seen the movies with the sweet cows and donkeys and drummer boy and sheep. But if you’ve spent any amount of time on a farm, then you know mangers are only useful in a barn that also contains bugs and straw and snotty-nosed (albeit adorable) calves, and the essential fragrance of feces.

Those aspects of Mary’s story, although over-romanticized, are at least familiar.

What might not be as recognizable, what you may not have imagined, is the Mary that lies within us, or at least, the Mary within those of us who are willing.

Maybe you can relate to Mary.

Maybe you feel like you have nothing going for you.

Maybe you feel like everything–and everyone–are stacked against you…

…a society…

…a family…

…a world…

…all of them bewildered by you and your calling.

Maybe you can feel something turning, like the press of a tiny hand or the quickening of a tiny foot against the stretched tight womb of your heart, something knit deep and strong in your most intimate places.

A dream.

A hope.

A light.

Now more than ever you may feel that the Noël of your purpose is at the trailhead of a dusty and barren, hoof-pitted path. Misunderstood, you face a starless night, destined for a jarring, unwelcoming, and foreign place that has no room for you, and no rest for your contracting purpose. Lies that scream you’re unworthy lick at your heels like rattlesnakes in wheel ruts.

But you.

You kick them aside and forge ahead. Doubt hangs heavy like a cloak around your shoulders, shame threatens and taunts you to turn back.

Still you go, an unexplained call pulling you like a fetter.

The manger is a mess.

The birth is painful and public.

The Promise arrives wet with fluid and tears.

The questions, rather than answered, are just beginning.

Infant.

Toddler.

Adolescent.

Man stretched tight on a wooden cross.

The reason is not always, if ever, realized.

But still.

Light comes.

Light always comes, when a servant is willing.

Light always comes, against all odds.

We are, each of us, called to carry Jesus into the dark, into the scary, into the places and to the people that misunderstand, that cannot see, that will not see, that hate and that have no room.

When you light a candle at your Christmas Eve service, consider the Mary place God is calling you to go. Consider the Bethlehem ahead of you. Consider the Luke 1:37-38 promise that with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.

Like, Mary, be willing to be the Lord’s servant.

One foot at a time.

Down the path of peace.

He will never leave you.

And the world desperately needs your light.

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Merry, blessed Christmas, dear friends.