Yesterday morning heralded adverse conditions. Two significant snowfalls in quick succession on Saturday left our congregation with an early morning decision to be made: enjoy a relaxing, leisurely time in warm homes or venture out to church in the sub-zero temperatures. Understandably those with impassable roads or a legitimate fear of the adverse weather rightly stayed at home (or to use Black Country speak ‘stopped in’). However the effort made by many to “be in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s day” was commendable and there was a lovely spirit of teamwork and collaboration: people accompanying others and arriving on foot together, offers of lifts for the elderly, others on hand to shovel the snow from the church pathway, extra mince pies for afterwards.
Our service focused on Mary, the bearer of God’s son. We reflected on the adverse conditions that were encountered in Bethlehem. Probably no snowfall when Christ was born, but the fear of being a young Jewish girl living under Roman occupation during times of mistreatment, poverty and injustice. Despite this, Mary overcame her anxiety. She knew how to say ‘Yes’ to God even though the future was not yet clear to her and she knew very little detail of what was to come. This young girl’s initial stuttering confidence in God became complete openness to be used for divine purposes, ‘may it be to me as you have said’ she replied to Gabriel.
Mary was as human as we are. Along with other young girls in her day she was perhaps not viewed very favourably by others with more authority and control in her culture, and yet she was captivated by God’s kingdom, of a world put right by God. So she responds with faith-inspired protest:
‘he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts'
‘he has brought down rulers from their thrones’
‘he has lifted up the humble, filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty’
Not at all easy for a young teenage girl under foreign occupation to have such audacious confidence, yet her faith in God enabled her to see beyond the adverse conditions surrounding her and to imagine life lived under the kingdom of God.
During our service we also watched a presentation related to the words of a song called ‘Labour of Love’ – reminding us of Mary’s condition. In a gentle way this song gives us some reality of the adverse conditions into which her son, our Saviour, was born. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYjYi4tYvXU
Faith and obedience in the midst of adversity. May it be so for all who struggle this Christmas.