Sunday, 11 December 2016

There Is No Such Thing As Ordinary

There is something powerful about stories. They have a way of moving us from one place to another. Think of the stories we hear at this time of year. There to story of the “Grinch” who hated Christmas. “No one quit knows the reasons. It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps that his shoes were just too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all. May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.” By the end of the story he realizes that Christmas is so much more than presents. “Then the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day!”
It is not only the Grinch that is changed by the Christmas message of hope but Scrooge in Dicken’s famous “Christmas Carol.” Overnight Scrooge is visited by the angels past, present and future who change his heart. On Christmas morning he wakes a new man. Then there are stories like, “The Gift of the Magi” that remind us of what it means to give from the heart. It the story of two people who gave everything they had for the other.
Then there is the Christmas story. So much more than literature. A story that contains a deep truth about life and faith. “Carolyn Sharp writes, “In the shadow of the Cross, we understand the Incarnation as a sign of hope clothed in vulnerability, conflict, and suffering. The Gospel shout is rooted in joy, to be sure! But to be meaningful, it must reflect an understanding of the loss, fear, and pain at the core of human existence.”
Marry knew all about those ups and downs of human existence. She was young, but one day he life was changed forever. The annunciations, the day the Angel Gabriel announces that Mary will literally bear God into the world, is a day described in so many ways. The poet Killian McDonnell imagines Mary’s story this way in his poem called In the Kitchen:
Bellini had it wrong.
I was not kneeling
on my satin cushion
silently at prayer
head slightly bent.

Painters always
skew the scene,
as if my life
were wrapped in silks,
and temple smells.

Actually I had just
come back from the well,
placing the picture on the table
I bumped the edge
spilling water on the floor.

As I bent to wipe
it up, there was a light
against the kitchen wall
as though someone had opened
the door to the sun.

Rag in hand
hair across my face,
I turned to see who was entering,
unannounced, unasked.

All I saw
was light, white
against the timbers.
I heard a voice
I had never heard.
I heard a greeting,
I was elected,
the Lord was with me,
I pushed my hair back,
I stood afraid.
Someone closed the door.
And I dropped my rag.
(Killian McDonnel, Swift Lord You are Not page 46 – 47)

In scripture it says, an angel of the Lord appeared to her. Not in a dream. Not in her imagination. But in person and says, “Greetings, favoured one. The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28) Now I don’t know about any of you. But I think that I’d be shaking. This is unexpected and confusing and probably scary. To reassure Mary, the angel says, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” (Luke 1:30)
Then the angel tells Mary that she has a special calling. Unmarried, young and she was going to conceive a baby by the Holy Spirit.  “And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.” (Luke 1: 31 – 32) Many people would have run away because it is such an unbelievable story. I sometimes wonder how many people turned down this offer from the angel before Mary said yes. It was Mary who had the courage to say yes, to say, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord: let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
One Voice sings a song called “Hey Mary” The words say:

Hey Mary there’s an angel in your house
Said Mary have I got some news for you
You seem to think your nothing much
but heaven’s coming close enough to touch
Hey Mary God is coming here through you.

There is no such things as ordinary now.
God is here.
Every life and breath is blessed
You never know when God might appear.

Mary’s impossible, improbable and yet somehow gets to the very heart of the Christmas story. Mary was ordinary. She probably had some of the same struggles that we all have. Maybe she wondered why God chose her for the important job of bearing God into the world. Maybe she was filled with doubts. Whatever else we remember about this amazing story, remember that no matter how impossible or improbable – Mary said yes. And Mary’s yes changed everything in our world. “There is no such thing as ordinary now. God is here.” Mary said yes to bringing God’s word to the world. And then she sings the most hope filled words we can hear at Christmas. It says in Luke 1:44 – 55:
I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now.

Mary’s song is one of hope and promise. It is a story that changes everything. Because of her brave yes, her story becomes our story. We too are invited to say yes to the impossible and improbable.  With God all things are possible and the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
In this seasons of stories, God’s story with humanity echoes in the story of a maiden who inspires all of us to say yes. The end of the song “Hey Mary” is our invitation to say yes to God’s ways of hope and new life.
Hey People there’s angel in your house.
Said listen have I got some news for you
You seem to think your nothing much
but heaven’s coming close enough to touch
Hey People God is coming here through you. Amen