Advent is a time of the unexpected. For one thing we have God’s choice of partners in the procreation of his own son. Jesus could have been set down fully grown anywhere in the world. But God knew that in order to understand people and to reach out to them, Jesus needed to grow up among them and to really be one of them. God could have chosen royalty, or a wealthy family to bear and raise his son, one where he would never want or struggle. God could have chosen a palace and an important city for the dwelling place of his son.
But God chose Nazareth – a small out-of-the-way place – unimportant – a place where Jesus could grow unencumbered by the wealth and attention he might receive in other places. God chose a place where Jesus could live among the common folk and learn about them first hand; a place where he could touch, feel and understand the trials and struggles of everyday people. In this area of Galilee, there was a large gentile population nearby so he would grow up knowing not only the Jewish people, but also how they interacted with people of other faiths and nationalities.
This is a perfect example of how God works within the context of ordinary life and through ordinary people. Mary was not any kind of super hero - (no Angelina Jolie, no Queen Elizabeth – not even a Mother Theresa) – just a simple village girl who had recently come of age. Mary lived an ordinary life in the small village of Nazareth. She helped her mother take care of the house and younger children. She made a daily trip down to the well, to draw water for use in cooking and washing. She cooked and cleaned just like any Jewish girl. I picture her singing as she goes about her work, a sweet disposition and spirit about her.
She dreamed of one day having a home of her own to take care of. She was betrothed to Joseph, a local carpenter – a tradesman. The life that laid before them was a simple life – one of love and shared experiences – of small children running around and growing up, much as they themselves had. When a young couple became betrothed, the husband began work on a place to live – often a room added onto his father’s house. When that was completed, then he came to collect his bride and everyone was invited to the celebration.
This was the plan – this was what they expected. But before Joseph came to collect his bride, she had a visitor. Gabriel, the messenger from God, who tells her she has been chosen to bear the Son of God. Mary said “Yes, here I am, Lord. Let it be,” and very shortly she found herself with child. I’m sure that she knew about the whys and wherefores of pregnancy and childbearing and child rearing. Those were common enough things in the life around her – and she was prepared for that – even looked forward to it.
But I’m not sure she was totally prepared for everything that came after. But in typical ‘girl fashion’ she goes to see her relative Elizabeth who is also expecting her first child. And Elizabeth affirms how special this child is that Mary carries. And regardless of what expectation we have for our children we have to wait – nine months until they are born, to see them. to hold them. And we have to wait until they grow up to see them take their place within this life and this society.
And so, like Mary, we wait. We wait in expectation – in anticipation – of what God will do in our midst – how he will work out his promises – using the ordinary to do extraordinary things. If we just have the kind of faith exhibited by a young peasant girl in a backwater town 2000 years ago – we too may see miracles and experience the great love of our God in new and wonderful ways.
Our lesson from Hebrews tells us that Christ came to abolish the yearly offerings, the sin and burnt offerings to establish himself as The Offering that redeems the world. In God’s plan, this one person, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, was to be the salvation of the world. This little baby would grow up to present himself as that sacrifice for all time. It is through this offering of Jesus’ body that we have been sanctified and made holy to stand before God. It is because of this sacrifice that we are adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God.
And it all started with a visit by an angel and a young girl who said “yes”.