As sometimes happens, life has been particularly messy lately. The physical decline of my aging father, family squabbles, unexpected expenses and the sudden lay-off of a friend who was already living on the edge all contribute to my sense of dis-ease. One of the harsh realities of life is that one can be tripping happily along one moment and have everything turned upside-down the next.
Perhaps no one knows this better than Mary, the mother of our Lord. One moment, Mary is a happy teenager, dreaming about the life she will share with her betrothed husband, Joseph. The Bible doesn’t tell us what Mary was doing when the Annunciation took place, but I imagine that she was practicing her future last name or weaving linens for her hope chest. Then Gabriel appeared, and suddenly those hopes and dreams were cast into grave jeopardy.
Gabriel tells Mary not to be afraid, but this crazy talk of a virgin birth is not exactly conducive to the absence of fear. So much for the perfect wedding Mary had planned! Joseph would surely send her packing for bringing such shame upon him. And this pregnancy could put the unwed Mary in danger of stoning. Life couldn’t get any messier than this! Yet, in spite of the fear and apprehension, Mary decided to say, “Yes.” She somehow found the faith to trust that a child conceived of the Holy Spirit and announced by an angel, would be nurtured in Love and protected from harm.
Perhaps Mary knew that messiness is the petri dish for new life. Birth itself is a messy and painful process, yet couples continue to choose the rocky road to parenthood knowing that the life to which they give birth will be worth the trouble.
As I enter into this Advent season, I wonder what new life might come from my present state of messiness. What seed might already be embedding itself into the womb of this current darkness? We are continually called to engage with God in the co-creation of a new heaven and a new earth. The journey to the Kingdom, just like the journey to Bethlehem, is never smooth, but the life we find at the end of it is worth the turbulent ride. The angel Gabriel announces to us all, “Don’t be frightened, for God has decided to bless you!” (Luke 1:30, NLT) May we, with the trust of Mary, respond, “May it be with me according to your will.” And may you find and nurture the new life that God has planted within your soul this Christmastide.