Despising the Shame

Sunday December 19, 2021 The Fourth Sunday of Advent (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Surrender to God’s Will

Psalm 80:1-18Micah 5:1-4Hebrews 10:5-10Luke 1:39-45

“Man is a religious animal. He is the only religious animal. He is the only animal that has the true religion…several of them.” Mark Twain. The basic concept of religion is reconnecting. Man instinctively knows that something is wrong. He doesn’t play well with others, and there’s an innate uneasy feeling between himself and something else that he calls god. He devises many schemes to try to correct this situation:  eastern mysticism, pious observances, and ritualistic performances, to name a few. On the other side of the spectrum, he’ll ignore the whole problem, arrogantly ridicule this “religion nonsense” and make up his own rules. By denying God, he then becomes his own god but fails to live up to the job description. The final result of all these flawed and feckless adventures is a grand case of “hope so”. The God of the Bible looks on the scene. He sees the best that humans can achieve will never be good enough. “I don’t want to lose them” says the Father. He turns to the Second Person of the Trinity, “Knowing what’s involved, will You go down and become one of them, Son”? He agrees, as illustrated in Hebrews 10, today’s reading. Jesus is to have a body. Now, where to put Him?

The betrothed Virgin Mary abandons her plans and submits to the terrifying privilege of giving birth to the Messiah. In a way to ease her fears, the angel Gabriel reminds Mary that nothing is impossible with God, even the miraculous pregnancy of Elizabeth (hint, hint). After the visitation, Mary ups and goes to stay with her cousin (Luke 1:39-45). There’s a lot of Holy Spirit going on at their encounter. Not only does the embryonic John the Baptist leap in Elizabeth’s womb at Mary’s greeting (a favorite verse of all the Pro-Lifers), but Elizabeth also knows she is pregnant with God’s Son even before any double lines would have shown up on the urine stick. Mary launches into her Magnificat, indicating that she is not only a young girl of great faith, but she knows her scripture too. She stays and helps out for three months until her cousin delivers. Elizabeth, “the barren mother”, is no longer despised. It was a needed time of fellowship and preparation for Mary, The Blessed Mother, who is now showing. She goes home ready to face what’s coming: Joseph’s possible rejection, a “Scarlet Letter” stigma by the villagers if not an outright stoning, a sword coming to pierce her heart, suffering, and the relentless song of the town drunks about Mary and her bastard baby boy (Psalm 69:12).  In fulfillment of Micah 5, Jesus is born in Bethlehem. She lays Him in a manger and the humiliation of the Almighty is laid bare before the universe as the Logos needs to have His diaper changed. It doesn’t matter. God’s love for man and Mary’s love for God makes the indignity irrelevant.

What do you say to a God who loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son?  Will you put your ideas and plans aside like Mary and say “yes” to Him? Will you trust your life in faith and obedience to God in this world, which will pass away, to gain an eternal joy with Him in heaven? “Fear not,” the angel said, “For unto you is born this day a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to pay for your sins and be saved. Make Christmas real and merry.

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