Christmas Day 2018: Masterful Mary

2018 Xmas dayDelivered at Ames UCC

©The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

Very little about Christmas, now, is about pondering. We make spaces look like treasures with lights and ornaments and wrapping. But that does not mean we gild the story through contemplation in our hearts.

Yet we hear that Mary does—the person closest to the Christmas mystery, does.

Mary’s body is sore, her bed far away, her visitors strange—she retreats from the tumult and excitement into her heart. She does not demand special treatment for all that she has done. Instead, she wordlessly and privately takes herself to the space of God.

Each of us has a space of God.

I sometimes call it heart, sometime call it soul. I feel it in my chest, but you might feel it differently.

It is a place in our body-lives much bombarded by noise and news, as well as our own minds. Around the space of God races hymn lyrics, conversations from the day, conversations we anticipate, to-do lists, anxiety, doubt, anger.

It is easily forgotten in the blur of hours. Yet it is still there. All we need to do to access it is to sit, to settle, and to consent to the presence of the divine.

Far easier said than done.

But Mary must have been a master of it. Mary must have been a master of accessing her space of God. Maybe in her prayer, in a meditative and otherwise wordless silence, she flicked away those racers with a phrase like “no, no” or “breathe” or “just this.”

Just this, as in just this space, just this time. Not a thing more matters or needs doing.

How else could she have kept from collapsing into tears and fears?

Consider what she went through:

  • Mary, you are pregnant and unmarried.
  • Mary, I am going to have to set you aside. No, wait, I will do the right thing.
  • Mary, we have to travel. The governor does not care about your pregnancy.
  • Mary, this barn will have to be your bed and your birthing suite.
  • Mary, angels came to us in the field and said your child is an anointed one.

Consider, too what she has yet to go through in our story telling:

  • Mary, we will stay with you as you watch your son die today.
  • Mary, let us tend to your son’s tomb today.
  • Mary, your son’s love is yet alive today.

How could she have endured it all, if not through regular tending to her heart, her soul, her God space?

Again and again in her life, Mary must have retreated to treasure God and to ponder God’s love: Just this, Just this. Just this consent and constant conversion to God.

Please do not hear me being a Grinch about the trappings of Christmas. There is nothing wrong with a season of beauty and tradition. Given what the infant child will grow to ask of us, it is good to have a reserve of delight to draw upon.

But Mary teaches us it is also good to have the reserve of our God space ready to draw upon, too. In upending times it will serve us better than tinsel.

When you can, as you are able, take these stories, treasure their words and ponder them in your heart. Let all the other voices in your life and in yourself know that just this, just this, just your space with God is enough. That you will ask for no more, and you shall seek no less, than Mary did: immediate and holy communion with the divine.


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