Keeping Fear Abated

Dec. 13, 2011

Luke 1:46-55

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

One day changed Mary’s world. She went from “common Hebrew girl” to “the mother of the Messiah” overnight. Yesterday, her day was normal, simple, and maybe even common. Then after a visit from an unsolicited angel, everything went crazy. It had to be a trying time in her life.

We’ve all had bad days, challenging days, “You won’t believe this happened,” days. Mary’s day could stack up against any of our days. Yet, seemingly she didn’t get overwhelmed. She didn’t go off the deep end. She kept her wits about her and traveled to see her cousin Elizabeth. Despite everything being rather uncertain in her life, she writes a song. A magnificent song. A song that should stop us in our tracks and make us take heed.

Mary’s song is reminiscent of another woman’s song the Old Testament named Hannah. Elkanah had two wives: Peninnah and Hannah. Peninnah had children but Hannah did not. In desperation, Hannah vowed to the Lord that if she bore a son, she would give him back to the Lord. Finally, Hannah becomes pregnant and has a son, who is named Samuel. She takes him to the priest, Eli, and dedicates Samuel’s life for service to the Lord. Then Hannah prayed:

“My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance. There is no one holy like the LORD; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed. The bows of the warriors are broken, but those who stumbled are armed with strength. Those who were full hire themselves out for food, but those who were hungry are hungry no more. She who was barren has borne seven children, but she who has had many sons pines away. The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up. The LORD sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes and has them inherit a throne of honor. For the foundations of the earth are the LORD’s; on them he has set the world. He will guard the feet of his faithful servants, but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the LORD will be broken. The Most High will thunder from heaven; the LORD will judge the ends of the earth. He will give strength to his king and exalt the horn of his anointed.”     – 1 Samuel 2:1-10

The songs aren’t exactly the same. But there are similar themes: rejoicing, trust in the Lord, the Lord cares for those in need. We see two women who don’t always understand God but willingly accept God and honor God in how they live their lives. Women sold out for God.

Are there similar women today? Does the life chosen by Mary get chosen by others today? If you look closely, you might see Mary in your neighborhood. She’s not the Mary you might think or are looking for.

This Mary volunteers at the local food pantry every chance she gets. She is the Mom all other Moms call when they need their kid transported to and fro and they aren’t able to do it themselves. She’s the woman who every Sunday teaches the wild Jr. High Sunday School class. When money gets tights, she forgoes new shoes for herself and makes sure the boy in her daughter’s class has a hat and mittens. She’s the first one to sign-up as a homeroom helper and the last one out the door from the school carnival.

At times, Mary feels overwhelmed, over-extended and under qualified. She knows that sometimes there are others who are more qualified but they don’t step forward. So she does, humbly offering herself and her gifts. At the end of some days, she looks forward to a few moments in a hot bubble bath, letting the worries of the day wash away with the suds, as they spiral down the drain. Maybe she doesn’t always understand God or completely agree with God’s choices. Yet, her life is defined by her relationship with God.

In the Bible, there are 106 occasions when God encourages us to “be not afraid.” Of those, 11 happen with the announcement of the birth of Jesus. Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds are all encouraged to not be afraid. It’s a reminder that even good news can unnerve us. News that should excite us can scare us.

Mary had every right to be scared, unnerved and afraid. Instead, she wrote a magnificent song. Read the words again, found at the beginning of this reading.

You see, perspective is part of the Christmas story. We can be unnerved by something, or we can be comforted by the same news. Even when the news wasn’t what Mary wanted to hear, she chose to celebrate rather than be fearful. She’s learned the art of rejoicing in all things.

What has you a little unnerved these days? What puts fear in your heart? Is it an uncertain health situation? A seemingly shortage of funds? Too many things to do and not enough time? A broken relationship that just can’t seem to be repaired? A loved one who can’t get it together?

Maybe it’s time to write a song to the Lord. Or sing one that speaks of your innermost thoughts. If music isn’t your thing, how else can you express your confidence, your faith, your confidence in the Lord, even when you are unnerved by life? Don’t be afraid to express your deepest fears and joys to the Lord. That’s what the Lord loves to hear.

Let us pray: Forgive me for not always having the confidence and faith of Mary. Take away my fear and worry and help my perspective be changed to fit your will for my life. May I learn to discover that it’s not removing the hardship that is important but instead discovering how to live and deal with the challenge inside the love of your arms. Amen.  

Blessings –

Dianne

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