Over the years I have heard Mary’s story many times. I had a pretty polished view of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus for a while, but then I started to really read and begin to understand the setting of the story.
It’s really disorienting if you stop and think about it. The ones who made it their vocation to obey God to the letter of the Law should have been the ones through which God took on flesh and entered into the human experience. Instead, it’s through Mary—a less than Royal teenager—and in the context of a disgraceful betrayal of what so many good Jewish families held so dear. The Gospel writers are quick to remind us of Joseph’s connection to King David, but that does little for the one who expects God to act with a little bit of dignity. The idea that Mary was magically “with child” would have been just as preposterous then as it is now. Immanuel enters into the human experience through a place of scandal, disgrace, and shame.
Mary undoubtedly wrestles with the question of how she is seen by her neighbors, but there is also this deeper awareness of God’s presence, both outside and inside of her. Even so she reaches out to her cousin, Elizabeth, in order to affirm what she knows at her deepest core to be true. As aware as she was of the reality explained by the Angel, she needed help shedding the reality told to her by her fears. She needed help embracing the absurd reality that God was entering the human experience in such a ridiculous way—straight through the heart of shame.
God Is With us
Advent is a time for us to remember the beauty that is the Incarnation—God entering deeply into the human experience. At Joshua Station it is profound to remember how God chose to do that. It’s possible that God’s timing is just a few months off, but I would bet that the disgrace of it all was kind of the point! God chooses to identify with the outcasts, the disgraced, those who are often seen as morally bankrupt. God chooses to identify with those who have made mistakes, those who struggle on the margins of the Empire, those who fall short of Noble Status.
For many of the beautiful people who have lived at Joshua Station, shame has been a very strong reality. For any number of reasons they have found themselves on the margins of the Empire and forced to carry all the baggage of shame that often comes with. Immanuel is the beautiful and disruptive reality that deeper than any of that shame is God! Right here! Right Now!
This story is one that cuts to the heart of all people regardless of wealth, status, moral achievement, etc. God is inviting us all to be vulnerable enough to be seen—shame and all! I believe this is why Paul boasts in his own weakness. It isn’t because once his own strength runs out, God takes over. That misses the deeper point! Paul sees that when he allows his entire self—weakness, shame, and all—to be seen, God, in all God’s strength, meets him in that space. Because straight through the heart of that shame is how God chooses to enter into our story!
Advent is an annual reminder that God is with us. Even Here! Even Now!
This post is the most recent 8th & Wyandot update. To find it, as well as the entire 8th & Wyandot archive, Click Here.