Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Kingdom-Colored Glasses


Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Sound advice, right?

When my wife became pregnant for the first time, I had a hard time keeping it a secret. I was so excited that I wanted to tell anyone and everyone who would listen. Prudence, however, advised reticence—at least until the pregnancy was well established. Eventually, everything worked out well, and our daughter was born.

With our second pregnancy, I was equally excited, and I managed to convince Elizabeth that the same people with whom we wanted to share our joy would also be those with whom we would want to share our pain if anything were to go wrong, so, after a month and a half, we started to tell our closest friends and family. A few weeks later, however, the pregnancy ended with a miscarriage. Since we were still in the early days, the emotional pain was real but not overwhelming, yet, when we eventually learned of another pregnancy, we approached it with caution.

According to Sunday’s gospel lesson, Mary, the mother of Jesus, seems to throw caution to the wind. Still early on in her pregnancy—perhaps only a few weeks after hearing from the Angel Gabriel that she would bear God’s Son—she comes to visit her cousin Elizabeth and exclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

As her song continues, she recounts the great deeds that the Lord has done—lifting up the lowly, bringing down the powerful, filling those who are hungry, and scattering the proud. Mary doesn’t speak as if these things may or even will someday happen. She proclaims them as if they are already fulfilled—even though Jesus was still several months from being born.

As I read of Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth, it seems to me that the bond shared between these two women—the older who immediately recognizes that Mary is carrying the savior and the younger who is emboldened by the other’s faith—is what gives Mary the strength to see what God is already doing through her and her to-be-born son. As a young, inexperienced mother, Mary astounds me by her confidence and recognition that God’s Incarnation plan is so powerful that nothing—no fear, no doubt—can get in the way.

Mary carries a great potential inside of her, yet she looks out and sees fulfillment. We, too, believe in a great potential—that one day all things will be made right by God. But we also have seen the reality of that potential as expressed in the Incarnation. As we prepare for the second-coming of Christ, I am encouraged to see the world the way Mary does. That means I’m not supposed to look around and notice all the ways in which this world is not like the kingdom of God but to see it as defined by the already-fulfilled promises that God has made to his people. If I were able to see the world the way Mary saw it, how different would my life be? 

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