Thirty years ago a preacher was called into the District Supervisors office to be reprimanded for saying that a woman was “pregnant” when in fact, she was actually “expecting with child.” It is amazing how the power of words touch our sensitivities and expressions about the world and time in which we live.
If only folks would focus on the Good News and get as excited and motivated to action and response when they heard the Christmas story. This encounter with Mary and her Aunt Elizabeth helps us recapture some the power and presence of God’s word.
Our first look at the text, as an overview, Mary, who is now “with child” as an unwed mother goes for an extended visit to her aunt’s house.
The CDC National Vital Statisti#285869B report that the number of unwed mothers was at 29% in 1980 and up to 44% in 2013, the a high water make of 51% in 2008 prior to the economic turn. Millennial women, those ages 26-31, have a current rate of 57% of children being born out of marriage, and 74% of those without a college degree had children outside of marriage, according to research from Johns Hopkins University. Read-Online.pdf.webloc. The 2014 report from childtrends.com Read-Online.pdf.webloc, report that of all the births to mothers who are 15-19, 88% were not married, and 65% of women who had babies last year where 20-25 were not married. The church has already lost the corner on the marriage market long before the Supreme Court expanded its definition of marriage.
All these statistics help us think about Mary and Joseph and the community’s response to marriage and childbirth. In a current time when our youngest mothers might even take their children to school or have the child’s grandparent raise the baby. Mary is more old school and goes to visit her Aunt for a while.
Our second look at the text, we see Elizabeth providing a safe-haven for Mary and her baby. She does not great her with judgment nor shame. Elizabeth’s focus is on the children, both her own and Mary’s.
Look back at the statistics of all the years and all the age groups and periods of time. How many unwed-expectant mothers have been told by God that their child is to be the Messiah and the child ends up being born and becoming the messiah? There is but one.
It is interesting that Mary’s hurried trip to the hills to see her aunt is first a response to that she could not explain in a way that the community and family could accept or understand. Even with Joseph’s willingness to take responsibility and Mary’s skipping town reveal that we live in a time when marriage less of a covenant of love, trust, and faith and an event, a tax deduction and a perceived hindrance to self fulfillment.
The Loop hole: They were engaged, betrothed, technically committed, covered? Surely it is more than this.
The Messiah and Savior of us all is born in a relation of broken-ness and twisting of the laws to suit our world view and personal experience. The balance of how we make sense of the world is our of order.
John Wesley taught us to ready and study scripture as a part of experiencing Jesus as the Word: spoken, alive and forever present for our benefit. We study, read and sing scripture as one of the ways we practice our faith.
But how we understand the Word is gathered through (3) three lenses/filters.
- We read and interpret the Word from our own experience in the world, our personal context as a spiritual being in a physical world.
- We read and hear how other faithful followers have experienced the Word in the past and learn from their trial and errors as well as their faithfulness.
- We also measure the world through the context of the world around us using our God given gifts of reason and part of us that reflects God’s image in our lives.
Therefore we lean about marriage by
- Asking and listening to those in the faith have been married successfully for generations.
- We ask God to reveal directly through our own experience of relationship and marriage.
- We learn from the minds and psyche God has given to each of us.
If we only value one or value one more than another, we skew God’s perspective in exchange for our own.
Time OUT! What does all this have to do with Christmas and Baby Jesus?
The greatest news that God loves the world that he wants to:
- Move in with us
- Show and teach us how to live and disciples others
- Come to give himself for our selfishness, pride, greed, and all matters of sin.
Can we hear this message in the conversation and visit to Aunt Elizabeth’s House?
Despite the perceptions that Joseph and Mary were out of bounds with marriage.
Not married, Difference of Ages, spiritual maturity, Expectations from family and society
(1) Elizabeth is filled with Joy, when the sound of Mary’s voice enters her house.
..When the angels show up to tell the shepherds, Be not afraid, be filled with, JOY.
Mary comes, for a time to move in with Elizabeth.
(2)Elizabeth hears the news and affirms, ‘my Lord has come to me.”
..Jesus says to disciples, Come to me all you who labor and heavy laden.
Mary is welcomed into the heart and home, because of joy AND for fulfillment of the WORD/ promise, salvation.
(3) Elizabeth, as a person of the Word/Scriptures acknowledges our Savior is here/now.
..Jesus explains to those on the road to Emmaus all the scriptures how the prophesies and teaches have all paved the way.
She teaches and encourages the fearful that God’s plans are unfolded, dependable and available.
In less than two minutes, Elizabeth speaks and models the work of Christ in the world.
JOY, I share:
Her own child rejoices within her, and she communicated the JOY by telling it.
MY HOME, Go is present in our real lives, NOW.
The Joy has come into our house, into our hearts, into our crazy brokenness
The Promises are worthy of Trust
All the Words and promises are fulfilling in Jesus.
So Elizabeth teaches some radical hospitality in welcoming Mary:
She Passionately shares her worship
She Intentionally shares her faith with encouragement
She Takes the Risk of welcoming the expectant Mary
She celebrates the Extravagant Generosity of God’s preparing us for this moment.
So Elizabeth gives us the homework assignment for Christmas prep and it takes two minutes.
STEP 1. Listen for Joy in the midst of Bad News
STEP 2. Claim that moment as time for God to be real in your life/experience
STEP 3. Place the current moment of Faith Sharing in the context of scripture.
This becomes a blessing for Elizabeth, Mary and God
Christmas is not about the gifts; it is about the giving.
It is not about preparing for the future, its about living in God presently.
It is about opening our hearts and homes to disciples others in their weakness and fear.
This is when Christ shows us as CHRIST-MASS.. Start today!