The Worst of Times
I am sometimes amazed at the kinds of things people in Scripture find a cause for celebration.
The lesson from Luke includes one of the most beloved songs from Scripture, the Magnificat, also known as the Song of Mary. (Click here to read it.) It records Mary celebrating her blessedness. In hindsight, it is not difficult to see the blessing. The is the mother of Jesus, the one our Orthodox brothers and sisters call the theotokos — the “God bearer.” She is, without a doubt, one of the most famous and revered women in history.
But consider her circumstances. She was betrothed, but not married, and suddenly turns up pregnant. Mary had already been visited by the angel Gabriel, but that probably would not hold much weight with her family and community. Dare she even tell them? In those days, pregnancy out of wedlock typically got a person kicked out of the home with nothing but the robe on their back. The community would ostracize her as well. So women in such circumstances would typically have to either take the most disreputable guy in town as a husband or quietly slip off somewhere like Jerusalem where she might eek out a living as a prostitute or a slave.
Since Mary was betrothed, Joseph would have been within his rights to ask for her to be stoned to death. We are told that Joseph determined to “put her away quietly” and that this was an expression of kindness. All in all, a painful and miserable beginning of motherhood, at least from a human perspective.
Yet, Mary declares, “He has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me.” Mary is able to see the hand of God beyond her circumstances.
While the specifics of Mary’s situation were quite unique, we are often faced with difficult circumstances, sometimes circumstances of our own making, sometimes brought on us by others, and sometimes there just is no obvious explanation. But just as God walked with Mary and brought great good out of her difficult circumstances, so He walks with us — in whatever circumstances — and can bring great good from our struggles and pain!
Jesus also came to us in a difficult time and place. No mass transit, no good communication, no internet, life was often short and often full of pain. Yet He came. And in the same way he comes to us in our difficult times and places. We can rejoice in Christmas because He does, indeed, come to us no matter the circumstances!
This column appeared in the December 23, 2018 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.