The Bible tells us, Mary “treasured all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). These ponderings included the suffering, humiliation, and pain of her unexpected and miraculous pregnancy. The treasure was that God was with her in her suffering. She could deal with her pain because she knew God loved and sustained her. God was at work in her life. That is a treasure worth keeping.
Like Mary, we have something great to do with our lives. It is to experience the miraculous alchemy that transforms suffering into beauty, forgiveness, strength, and love. It’s what we need. It’s what our world needs.
A Song of Praise
Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth to see if the angel’s words about her were true. Perhaps Mary needed comfort and guidance from the older woman. Elizabeth had faced her own great challenges and surprises. Perhaps Mary was afraid to go home. Elizabeth’s exuberant greeting put her fears to rest. Like the angel, her cousin told Mary she was blessed and so was her baby. It was just the confirmation and encouragement Mary needed.
Mary spontaneously burst into a glorious exultation of praise known as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56, NIV):
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Where did Mary’s majestic words come from? Did she compose them on her way to Elizabeth’s house? Did she learn them from a wise teacher and recite them with each weary step through the Judean hills? Whatever their source, they are a window into Mary’s soul. When all she hoped for seemed swept away, she found strength in God.
We face the same dilemma. There comes a time when those who suffer find the reservoir of human strength is dry. The support of well-meaning friends crumbles. Even those we love can’t journey any further with us and there is nowhere else to go. We feel alone. But we aren’t. At the end of human efforts, God waits with divine strength.
The questions that Mary’s story poses to us each and every Christmas is, when we face shocking news, potentially tragic news, news that seems to derail—or in fact does derail all our plans—
- Will we move toward resilience?
- Will we listen for, and hear, the Holy that is somehow present in the midst of tragedy?
- Will we discern the word of God that has come to us, and give ourselves over, not to the tragic interpretation, but to the Word?
- Will we allow that word to grow within us, and allow the Word of grace, not the word of tragedy, to shape our course?