Don’t Take Mary Lightly!

Rev. Jane Courtright – December 18, 2022

  “Angels can fly!, because they take themselves lightly.” 

Maybe you’ve heard that old Scottish proverb!

No one I know takes angels lightly, though.

Most people I know don’t take angels at all, being unaccustomed to their presence in the everyday imagination!  You and I have trouble speaking about such things as angels.  It would stop the conversation at any Christmas cocktail party if someone were to say, “I saw an angel yesterday and heard…”

Nonetheless, we CROWD Christmas with them…. cards & nativity scenes & tree ornaments & pageants, many displaying angels who appear meek & mild, or sober, with a certain reverence.          Actually, I’ve haven’t heard many jokes about angels, although you’re welcome to tell me one if you have one!

Who we DO take lightly sometimes, is Mary.  She’s been the butt of endless jokes for generations!  Theologians tend to either downplay her importance in the Christmas story, OR they put her up on a distant pedestal….almost like a goddess, instead of a real woman!

What is often disregarded is her quick wit, her strength, her survival skills, her determination (which is shown more and more as Jesus grows older,) her willingness to march to a different drummer AND her recorded argument with an angel: something that in the Bible, only Abraham, Jonah and Gideon had done before her!

That’s where the angels come in.  Literally, in the story. Here comes an angel, offering Mary an opportunity, if she’s willing to undertake it. It’s an AWFUL lot of work, & will definitely risk her reputation.

More than 2,000 years have gone by since then, and people are still making jokes and laughing about Mary. But Mary accepts the challenge.  BRAVO FOR HER!!!

Angels, you see, don’t help people out so much, though that is their popular reputation. Neither do angels make things happen or keep things from happening.  What they DO is announce possibilities.  THE REST IS UP TO US.

 *This baby could be here, but it’s up to you, Mary.

*King Herod could get this baby, unless you go home some other way, Magi!

*This woman could go through all this alone, unless you, Joseph, choose to trust her.

YOU SEE?!

Angels offer people the opportunity to leave the relative comfort of their own lives, and take on the discomfort of bringing a new possibility into the world, into other people’s lives.

WHICH IS, I THINK, THE WAY THE HOLY ALWAYS ENTERS INTO THE HUMAN SITUATION.

Time and time again, that is the way. Ordinary people move beyond themselves, move into a place that is uncharted, risk finding their own way by following stars (how foolish!,)  or by raising children of whom the world does not approve, or by caring for people that others look down their noses at.

 A POSSIBILITY.  THAT’S ALL THE ANGELS OFFER!

 YOU have to figure out HOW to make it happen. YOU have to find a way to get through the difficulties that surround you and lie ahead.  You make the possibility happen!                                          YOU, YOUR wits, YOUR courage and YOUR commitment.

*So, Mary had to figure out how to make a relationship with Joseph – NOW!

*And, Joseph had to figure out where she could have this baby in Bethlehem.

*And, then he had to figure out how they could survive in Egypt & when to come back to Nazareth!

*And they both had to figure out what every parent struggles to learn: how to raise a child who has enough wisdom & enough courage to answer her or his own angels!

The hallmarks of angels seem to be these:

*What they offer you will get you laughed at by your friends and by strangers…..maybe even your family!

*You’ll never be able to really get back to your own familiar agenda.

*You won’t gain wealth & glory.  You WILL be hurt and often.

*It will be the most wonderful thing you have ever done!

Probably, angels are offering these possibilities to us all the time!

The real miracle of Christmas, then, is that so many people say “YES!” to their angels!

Just think of how many holy possibilities may have gone unnoticed in the world because shepherds somewhere turned over and went back to sleep!  Or because wise ones gave up the quest before they had gone far enough!

Here are just a few people we’ve seen, people who have accepted the offers of their angels, and kept holy possibility alive, in extraordinary ways….UNTIL WE NOTICED & REMEMBERED:

Albert Schweitzer, Jane Adams, Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jimmy Carter, Greta Thunberg, Chad Peh-graphy & so many others, famous & less widely known.              I can imagine you can picture in your mind people who answered “YES” to their angels!

Because of course, the angels have winged over Rock Island and the rest of our Quad Cities, challenging people to act on possibilities!

*There are people who help books, food & a listening ear to children and youth.

*There are people who quietly clear snow off the driveways and sidewalks of neighbors.

*There are people who work hard in efforts to benefit the community & those who take part in peace & justice gatherings and vigils.

*There are those who visit the lonely and the sick.

*There are those who work to make sure that those in unfortunate circumstances have food and warm shelter.

*There are teachers, health care workers and advocates.

THE LIST GOES ON AND ON.  Look around you.  There ARE people who have heard & accepted challenges of angels.

They are sometimes laughed at or ignored.

The DON’T gain wealth or glory for what they do.

They are often hurt & frustrated & lonely.

And they KNOW THE REAL JOY of great blessing!

 

ANGELS ARE EVERYWHERE announcing Holy Possiblities!

Christmas is a good time to ponder their offerings to us.

Will YOU accept the challenge and opportunity to let the Holy into our world?  Will you say ‘YES’ to your angel?

Like Mary and Joseph, may we find OUR way to Bethlehem,

Where Holy Possibility is about to be born!  Amen.

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