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A posture of wondering (Mary)

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This is the third article in a five-part Advent series. In case you missed them, here are parts one and two.

Third Advent Sunday

Word: the biblical starting point

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.”  Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

Wisdom: a guiding sentiment

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” Socrates

Weave: an intertwining of experience or reflection and the biblical story

Rightly so, Mary’s reaction to the presence and message of the angel Gabriel was both one of being troubled (fearful, actually) and one of wondering (pondering, discerning). Is this really happening? Am I in danger? How do I respond? Who am I that you would take notice of me? It was Mary’s wondering that caught my interest. Mary pondered, engaged in discerning, the KJV Bible reads that Mary “cast [about] in her mind” what this experience was all about. Gabriel responds directly to Mary’s two reactions: “do not be afraid” and “you have found favour with God.” Gabriel then reveals God’s incarnational plan, a work that would include her. Mary responds in obedience once she understood the call upon her life.

There is no better season than Advent to engage in wondering. Advent moves us toward, points us to, has us consider the miracle of the incarnation—God coming to the earth he created to live among us. For me, the description of the incarnation in Max Lucado’s book, God Came Near, awakens my imagination to the mystifying magnitude of this miracle: “God entered the world as a baby. A baby in a manger, in a stable of animals…. Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter…. The omnipotent, in one instant, made himself breakable. He who had been spirit became pierceable. He who was larger than the universe became an embryo…. God as fetus. Holiness sleeping in a womb. The Creator of life being created….” “The Maker of all things shrank down, down, down, so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye….” “God came near….”

Wrestle: pondering next steps

God has created us with the capacity to wonder, to ponder, to reflect. Wondering and exercising our imagination operate in us in tandem. We are hard-pressed to find space to do either. How much does kingdom impact and growth depend on our employment of these divinely-appointed gifts? What happens in our hearts, to our degree of passion for gospel witness, when we create space to wonder, for example, about the depth of the love of God as seen in the incarnation of Christ? What would an Advent steeped in a posture of wondering like Mary did—a casting about a matter in our mind the things of God—look like? Feel like? Sound like?

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