[Here is a link to the beginning of the text to which I refer.]
Sometimes I don’t think I can be like Jesus. I’m too old, too tired, too grouchy. I know he’s our aspirational model of sanctification (as well as our justification), but sometimes, when I haven’t slept well because a kid woke me up in the night with a bad dream, or when I just can’t see the path from the groceries to the end of the month, that peaceful, only angry at the right time Jesus seems too far out of reach. I need him, for his restraining power, for the gift of rightness with God when I am so very full of sin, but being like him? Maybe tomorrow.
In times like these, I’m thankful for Mary. She’s troubled when she sees the angel. I know the most recent imaginings of her are as a teenager, but I’ve always seen her as a little bit older, finally getting married and getting her life together in the eyes of her culture, and then this angel shows up to wreck all her plans. If you wouldn’t be troubled when a celestial being calls you favored and tells you the Lord is with you, I’m kinda hesitant to be your friend. I’m the married mother of four children, so…I’m no Mary, but if an angel showed up to me right now to tell me God has big plans for my life, I would definitely tell him to try next door (or further down, since the houses on either side of us are vacant): “I can’t even keep my kitchen clean — you probably want someone else.” Mary’s being greatly troubled gives me so much assurance, that I’m not the only one out here not quite ready for what God is asking me to do. Later, she accepts it, but it’s this first moment that gives my uncertain heart space to find itself.
And of course, the rest of the story is the story that I need. The angel tells Mary she’s going to get a super big unsolicited miracle, but that her cousin Elizabeth has already gotten a miracle — a wanted and longed for and long relinquished miracle. A miracle that is essentially safe at six months of pregnancy. So Mary goes down and visits with her cousin, and that miracle jumps at her miracle, and they all praise the Lord together, marveling at how God works in upside down ways to do his will. Mary recites her Magnificat, I imagine the words percolating through her with every step towards the hill country, until she gets to her cousin and it all comes out.
I imagine those three months of the visit, of Elizabeth helping Mary through the uncertainty of the first trimester, Mary helping Elizabeth as she gets bulky and tired and can’t sleep because of the heartburn (no, only me?), Elizabeth talking Mary through what it’s like to have an unlikely, unexpected pregnancy, if those teensy feelings she’s having are just gas or just maybe the first kicks of baby God. I love the idea of the two women living together (old Zechariah a silent and slightly shamefaced helper), learning together about the way you live with miracles, what it means to be favored, for God to be with you, or in Mary’s case, literally inside you. And then, it seems, Mary goes home before John is born, to wait for her own Miracle to be born, and probably have some awkward conversations with her betrothed.
And I know, ready or not, God is with me. Emmanuel. The favor that his only son Jesus has, the favor Mary has and carried, is the same favor that I have. And his Holy Spirit lives in me, not in my womb, with a short stay, but in my heart, for my lifetime, to empower me to do all the big scary plans he has called me to do, to love and serve my family and my neighborhood, to bring the spirit of the Magnificat here on earth.