Homily for Advent 4 – The Rev. Anne Anchor

There is a Christmas song written over 20 years ago by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene of the Gaither Vocal Band that is making the rounds of Facebook and YouTube now being sung by an a cappella group named the Pentatonix.

The song is titled……

‘Mary did you know…… ‘

as the song progresses it speaks of the key events in the life of Jesus in the form of questions to Mary …..

Mary did you know that he will walk on water
Mary did you know That one day … the child you delivered will soon deliver you

It speaks of the miracles that Jesus did, of giving sight to the blind, and calming the sea. It contains the Christian images of Jesus that have developed over time ….. the Lord of all creation, the ruler of all the nations, and heavens perfect lamb.

For me the key line in the whole song is this question …
Mary did you know ……When you kiss your little baby, You’ve kissed the face of God
This question has been present with me throughout all the Advent season and speaks for me to this gospel passage.

I am sure each of us here today hold some image in our mind of what Mary might have been like at this moment in her life, as recorded by the writer of Luke. It is interesting to note that only Luke writes of this encounter of Mary with the Angel Gabriel.

Throughout time, there has been much conjecture and many questions about Mary, the mother of Jesus.

  • Who really was she?
  • Why was she the chosen one?
  • Were there others who said ‘no’ before she said Yes?
  • How long did it take for her to say Yes ?
  • and of course reflection on how the discussion with Joseph may have gone.

This moment, also known as the Annunciation, has been a point of discussion throughout church history about what is the truth of the message.

When I began my in-depth study of scripture in the Education for Ministry course the question that haunted me as I ended my 1st year of study on the Hebrew scriptures was …. why did God choose that time in human history, that place in all of creation to become incarnate to the world?

What had occurred that this was so different a time in Hebrew history that the time was right for God to become incarnate and to reveal the divine to humanity in human form?

A recent meditation I received through Richard Rohr’s Centre for Contemplation and Action sums up what I believe now is the answer to any of these questions.

‘What Jesus allows us to imagine—because we see it in him—is that the divine and the human are forever one. God did not just take on one human nature, God took on all human nature and said “yes” to it forever! In varying degrees and with infinite qualities, God took on everything physical, material, and natural as himself. That is the full meaning of the Incarnation. To allow such a momentous truth, to fully believe it, to enjoy it in practical ways, to suffer it with and for others—this is what it means to be a Christian! Nothing less will do now.’

So my initial questions are no longer what concerns me.

I have come to realize that it does not matter what time or place God became incarnate what matters is that through Mary, as Richard says …

God took on all human nature and said “yes” to it forever!

Now as I am able to put my questions aside I can look at this passage from the prospective of not so much that this was Mary’s yes to God but that it was God’s yes to humanity. In doing so I am able to look at Mary as a young mother-to-be.

I wonder how Mary felt as she grew into the full reality that she was to be a mother, as she began to feel a human life growing inside her womb. I am sure she would have had all the concerns of pending motherhood.

The image that comes to mind for me now is of a young mom-to-be with her hand resting on the outside of her womb. She is looking down and envisioning the eyes, the heart and the soul of her child and wondering what the future will hold for him.

It is the norm in our culture to say that all we want for our yet to be born child is for it to be healthy. This is true but I also think that most young moms-to-be or those waiting for the phone call during the adoption process that says they have a child, dream that their child will grow up to change the world, to make it a better place. That their child will be loving, caring and compassionate and for those with a faith in God that their child will walk as one loved by God and who will love God.

I feel that all the thoughts that almost every mom-to-be has in their mind were also present in Mary’s mind. No matter what questions Mary had, no matter what she pondered deeply in her heart I am pretty sure that above all else there was a prayer of hope that invaded her soul and her heart, that the child be healthy and happy and would live a life rich and full in the knowledge of God’s love. No matter where his life journey would take him that he would be blessed as a child of God and live a life full of caring and compassion.

This was my prayer as I carried my children and for each of my granddaughters as they were being formed in their mother’s wombs.

What does this incarnation of God in a woman with all the normal concerns of pending motherhood mean for us today.

Why does it matter that ….. God took on all human nature and said “yes” to it forever!

It matters because this woman, bore a child so that we may learn through the life of Jesus how to be the hands, the feet and the heart of God.

to quote Teresa of Avila…

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,

Yours are the eyes with which he looks Compassion on this world,

Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,

Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.

nativity.jpgThrough this child, for whom Mary prayed daily, each of us here sees in human form how to be caring and compassionate to all of God’s creation. As we end this Advent season I pray that each of us will become stronger in saying YES to God as God has said YES to us.

May we remember that for all of us,

as Mary …… Kissed her little baby, she kissed the face of God


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