December 12, 2020
By Amy L. Chilton
“Mary said, ‘With my heart, I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. He has looked with favor on the low status of his servant. Look! From now on, everyone will consider me highly favored because the mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is his name. He shows mercy to everyone, from one generation to the next, who honors him as God. He has shown strength with his arm. He has scattered those with arrogant thoughts and proud inclinations. He has pulled the powerful down from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty-handed. He has come to the aid of his servant, Israel, remembering his mercy, just as he promised our ancestors, to Abraham and to Abraham’s descendants forever.’” Luke 1:46-55
A young woman, unmarried when she conceived and from the no-account town of Nazareth, had been chosen to be the God-bearer, the theotokos who would take over religious imagination until we Protestants left her behind. She seems an unlikely candidate, no matter how glowingly she is painted or how many Christmas creches she fills. And yet there she sat in that stable, her thin hand moving methodically up and down the newborn’s back, feeling his heart flutter like a butterfly under his wrinkled-up old man skin. Her face resting on the peach fuzz of his head, breathing in his new scent while marveling that she had known this child from before he took his first breath. I have always wondered if she initially marveled or feared. Did she resent the intrusion on these first tender moments as they lay skin to skin, the intrusion of a future far outside her control? Or even then did she know God’s mercy surrounded her, giving her strength now to hold this fragile God-child in her hands and strength later to open those hands and let him go? Was her fierce mother-love born that night, the love that enabled the same hands that stroked his tiny back to reach up to her man-child as he died in front of her? Her hands were the hands of a disciple, hands that served alongside her son and God, hands that wiped away his childhood tears, hands that held him close, and then hands that let him go. If God’s hands are our hands, if we are the ones through whom God’s love and mercy is made real in this imperfect world, then may our hands be like her hands – the first hands to cradle the Christ-Child’s fragile infant form. May we use them with kindness and wisdom, with compassion (continued on next page) toward the most vulnerable, and with courage for the hard tasks of discipleship. May our hands serve God lifted up in Mary’s Magnificat, the God who reverses the fortunes of the powerful and the oppressed. And like Mary, may we sing out with joy and hope even in the darkest of winter nights: from the depths of who we are, may we rejoice in God our savior!