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With Mary Along The Advent Trail – Mā te Huarahi Aweneti tahi me Meri

Stained glass window of The Visitation, Church of the Reconciliation, Taizé Community, France.

Stained glass window of The Visitation, Church of the Reconciliation, Taizé Community, France.

WelCom November 2016:

A Meditation – He Whakaaroaro

ADVENT means ‘approaching’ – something is coming! It is traditionally a four-week season in preparation for Christmas, but the first two weeks focus on the ‘second coming’ of Christ; the time when all will be brought to completion. They follow the feast of Christ the King and conclude the Church’s Ordinary Time, opening us towards a new time of celebrating the Word becoming flesh and living among us. Fr James Lyons reflects.


The two ‘comings’ complement each other: every beginning has an ending; and every ending makes way for a new beginning.

In this article, the focus is on the second part, the immediate preparation for the birth of Jesus and God’s intervention in human history. The text is in the Gospel of Luke, 1:26 – 2:22.

Here is a meditation with Mary through the time of her hearing and responding to God’s call, to the birth of Jesus and her coming to life in him. The reader is invited to travel with Mary, to experience her fear, her doubt, her hope and her joy – and to invite her into your own life experiences.

Here, presented in two parts, is Mary’s Advent experience – a coming to long for.

Part 2 of Fr James Lyons’ Advent meditation will be in December WelCom.

Part 1

Annunciation

The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary – A moment of great intensity, like the dazzling brightness of a spotlight. The declaration came as a greeting and with the assurance not to be afraid. Often it’s the suddenness of the unexpected that stuns and alarms. God’s entry into a life will invariably shock and startle, and, like Mary, you need to face the question: Do I really want this?

How can this be? – There is no doubt in Mary’s mind that she is unprepared for this message. What is asked of her is impossible. Surely she’s not expected to go along with this ‘announcement’? It’s easy to close your eyes to possibilities when they seem impossible, out of reach! God does not ask you – nor did he ask Mary – to do the impossible, only to believe.

Be it done unto me – Mary’s acceptance seems to have taken no time at all, but we know how much she pondered on the events in her life with Jesus. So, did she pause, get some fresh air, consider the consequences of her ‘Yes’? Rushing into a commitment is rarely the best course; yet taking too long with your answer can mean an opportunity lost. Mary, guide me in the decisions I must make. Let my faith in God’s love always be present in the outcome.

Visitation

Mary went off as quickly as she could – Mary is still absorbing the news of her own pregnancy and that of her older relative, Elizabeth. How can this be? now has companion questions: How can I explain this? What am I going to do? Getting away from her immediate family might help; give her time to think… What doubts or worries are concerning me right now? Mary, come with me, strengthen my confidence to confide in a friend.

Blessed are you among women – Elizabeth recognises that God has touched Mary’s life in some way and welcomes her without question. The uniqueness of each person presents an image of God found nowhere else. Each of us is a blessed moment in creation, to be respected, welcomed, listened to and cared for. God comes to us in one another. Am I ready for that encounter today?

The child in my womb leapt for joy – John the Baptist, yet to be born, recognises the holiness of Mary and the child she carries. In his mother’s womb he leaps for joy, seeing what is still to come: the answer to our longing for forgiveness, peace and fulfilment. Children often see what adults cannot, or cannot bring themselves to acknowledge. Let the child in you wonder at this revelation: God, in the tabernacle of Mary’s womb.

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months – This was Mary’s time to begin her ‘treasuring and pondering’ that would characterise her life with Jesus, while helping Elizabeth, an older woman, prepare to give birth. The waiting would have been filled with activity, yet both would find time to contemplate the privilege of bringing new life into the world. Their companionship would grow courage against an uncertain future.

Magnificat

My soul glorifies the Lord – Mary’s beautiful hymn of praise is also a plea for justice. Drawn from the Hebrew scriptures, so much a part of her cultural heritage, the hymn echoes her conviction that God is glorified when the human spirit is in harmony with the rhythm of creation. Advent is a time for reflecting on our connection with the world and one another. To sing in harmony is the essence and crown of collaboration.

The Lord has done great things for me – What are these great things? Make a list of the gifts you enjoy through the providence of God. Recognise your giftedness; how well you are using your gifts; how your gifts complement the gifts of others. Stewardship is the art of knowing how best to place your gift for the service of others. Make a daily prayer space to thank God for your gifts, and for the way the gifts of others support you.

Holy is his nameThe Lord’s Prayer was unknown to Mary when she proclaimed the holiness of God’s name. She instinctively knew what we were taught to say: hallowed be your name. Consider the holiness that surrounds your life: that you are a living being; your ability to love; the wealth of your relationships and the life that comes from them; the beauty of the outdoors… We walk on ground made holy by the very presence of life.

He raises the lowly – Lifting up, helping people to feel good about themselves, was the mission of Jesus. Especially blessed are those who are ready to admit their need of God, who welcome a helping hand. Mary’s humble acceptance of God in her life raised her to the heights. She stands ready to help us reach the same goal. How might you raise the lowly, boost someone’s confidence, lighten a load…?

Joseph

A man of honour – Joseph and Mary must have had some serious conversations after she confided to him her pregnancy. This man of honour, this honest and upright man, would have agonised over what to do about it. Sometimes it seems easier not be honourable, to simply lash out and violently vent your anger and disappointment. Think about the crises in your life. Are you facing one now? Invite Joseph and Mary to share it.

Decided to divorce her informally – Joseph and Mary were betrothed. It was expected they would marry. To break the arrangement would be a huge loss of face. Joseph wanted to make it as easy as possible for Mary, but it would never be easy. Tongues would wag. The stigma would remain. You might not want a breakup to hurt anyone but… Please proceed with care. Something broken is, more often than not, beyond repair.

Do not be afraid – Not knowing something I expect to know, should know or have a right to know, gives rise to my greatest fear – what else am I not being told? Joseph was afraid for Mary, but also for himself. The shame and humiliation would be unbearable. Why did this have to happen? How did it happen? A calming spirit fills him with the assurance that all will be well. To trust and to hope. These are surely wonderful human gifts.

He took Mary as his wife – ‘taking’ implies accepting responsibility, a readiness to shelter and protect, and a deep and abiding trust. Joseph’s ‘dream’ had reassured him; he found a strength he didn’t know he had. As his wife, Mary would want for nothing. He would stand between her and whatever or whoever might try to harm her or her child. He found his love could ‘bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things’. His love never failed (see 1 Corinthians, 13:7).