Rev. Rosemary Webb
21st December 2014
The Faith of The teenage Mary

This last week as so often seems to be the case brought us scenes of unbelievable evil, unbelievable cruelty and sadness. Over a hundred and thirty killed in a Pakistan school, and the two hostages killed in Sydney. And it seems particularly poignant that in Sydney a young mother was killed, so we believe, while sheltering her pregnant friend from the assassin. Killed because she valued an unborn child.

All of us who have had children can remember that combination of joy and anxiety when being told we are pregnant – joy because we wanted this child and anxiety because we know what a huge responsibility it is bringing up a child. Making sure they are prepared to be able to take their place in society. But for all women apart from one this news is confirmed by a doctor, nurse, or some other human being,the one exception was, of course, Mary.

For a very young village girl being greeted by an angel must have been startling enough, being told she was going to have a baby probably absolutely terrifying – unmarried mothers were not tolerated at that time and Mary’s first thought could probably be that she would be stoned, and as those fears were going through her mind she heard that this baby wasn’t just any baby but the long awaited Messiah, the son of God. I often feel that in the excitement of Christmas, the joy of seeing this little baby in a manger we overlook the bravery of Mary, her true faith, her willingness to be open to the Holy Spirit.

Of course, God having chosen her, was truly with her; by the power of the Holy Spirit she had the strength at that moment to commit herself to be the servant of God. To give her life over to serving her heavenly Father, to being willing to give birth to the Prince of Peace.

So why, do you think, God chose this young peasant girl to bear Jesus. God could have chosen anyone, someone very powerful in which case it might have been easier for the Jewish people to accept him. It we look at history, if we had been alive at that time and an angel had asked us who God would choose would we have said a peasant girl – I doubt it.

But I suspect it was just because Mary was so like hundreds of young Jewish teenagers, she was an everyday girl. It was surely her ordinariness that allowed God to make it absolutely clear that Jesus was truly and fully human. No one could say he was different because he was born to a wealthy or powerful family.

If we think about it we know very little about Mary. But we do know her humility, her faith and her obedience to God. She didn’t seek attention, she never took centre stage, from the moment the Angel Gabriel came to her she lived a life committed to God, she faced each challenge with faith and courage , and what courage she had to have. And for that reason I can never truly understand why many Anglican and protestant churches do not revere her. We are blessed here at St Matthew’s with our lovely statue alongside which we can light candles, pray and give thanks for all the strength her baby gives us.

As we think of Mary’s calling and her obedient response, so I believe we are called to think of our response to God’s calling, his calling to be a servant. For we are all called, not all to have the same role, but to have a role in the creation of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Some are called to be parents, to go overseas, to work in the local supermarket, to teach, to explore, to be in the medical profession, to clean the roles are endless, but the point is that no matter what are role, we listen to God, hear his voice and respond. We may not see an angel, but if we stop and listen we will hear God’s voice, which surely is the same thing. His call to us to respond is the same.

Mary helps us to understand that as God chose her, he chooses those who hear his voice to be Christ’s body here on earth now. And I believe that it was his guiding hand which resulted in Libby Lane to be chosen as our first women Bishop. I am sure God was pointing previous selectors towards a women bishop but this time Synod had trusted God enough to put their fears and prejudices behind them and give their authorisation to the appointment of a woman. As Paul said in Galatians ‘In God there is no male or female’ and Paul is not renowned for his respect of women.

God gave each of us freedom to choice, and it through that freedom of choice that we can develop; change into that person God wants us to be. We also, I believe, need to do all we can to ensure that everyone has the freedom to choose. Is there a risk in our secular society that too many children grow up without the opportunity of choice? Children who are not taught Christianity, who perhaps know a baby was born in a stable, but nothing of his life, that he is indeed God. We are called to obey God, if we just sit back and allow Christianity to disappear from our school curriculum are we in fact disobeying God through apathy?
Humanists tell us we are being unfair to other faiths but they seem to forget that in Islam Jesus is a prophet in whom they believe.

God had faith in that young, unmarried girl to change the world. And Mary, more than any other human being, did change the world; for by giving birth to our Saviour she brought ‘The Word’ to life.

We may think we haven’t the confidence to proclaim the message, but we need to remember that God will guide us, our feebleness will never limit how God uses us. He calls us all to give ourselves completely over to him, to listen to his voice, and truly become Christ’s body here on earth.

As Christmas approaches let our prayer for ourselves and each other be that we are ready to receive the reality of God within us, that we are truly ready to do all we can to work for the coming of Christ’s kingdom here on earth.

Luke 1:26-38