No advent blog, especially early in the season, would be complete without at least one reflection on the woman who made the whole thing possible: Mary.
Unfortunately this amazing lady (girl?) is easily overlooked, especially by some within the protestant denominations. But in these early days of advent I would really encourage anyone to read Luke's account of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary to tell her that she had been chosen for the extraordinary task of bearing God Himself.
In today's culture - certainly here in the west of Scotland - a single mother outside of marriage is neither rare nor, at least in many cases (I would guess), frowned upon in the way that it once would have been, all of which means that we lose something of the shock factor of Mary's situation. Because in a first century Jewish culture the betrothal period was not like an engagement of our time which can be easily (although not painlessly) broken; it literally required a divorce to be carried out. Yet also unlike what appears to be increasingly the cultural norm today, even with this high level of commitment between both sides sexual union still wouldn't have taken place before the marriage proper. And so for Mary to be found to be pregnant within that context would not only have shamed her and her family but could ultimately have led to her stoning for adultery.
And so I think it can only be when we really start to grapple with what it meant for Mary to be pregnant in that context and at that stage of her young life that the enormity of Luke 1:38 can begin to be understood: "I am the Lord's servant... May it be to me as you have said."
And so as I reflect on Mary, especially with our highly sanitised picture of the whole affair - shepherds, and angels, and proud parents all emitting some kind of stained-glass-holy-glow, I find myself immensely challenged as I seek to follow in her example of radical obedience. Because Mary's obedience to God and His calling on her life could literally have been a death sentence; and it would certainly lead to some uncomforable conversations and, although this is purely conjecture, must certainly have led to some broken relationships with those who turned their back on the young whore. Yet obedient she was.
As we look at this "highly favoured" lady I don't think any of us can fail to be challenged as to what radical obedience to God in our day looks like - both at a corporate level but also in terms of the individual calling on the life of every Christ-follower. And as I think about that I can't help but be challenged as to whether or not I choose the path of least resistance and low offence in order to protect myself when instead I should be echoing the words of a scared, young girl.
Because we are called to be servants of Christ: and what better example can there be of that than Mary, the servant-mother?