One of my new favourite Christmas songs is ‘God Is With Us’ by So Elated.
‘Mary wakes a little piece of me…’
One of the churches I went to in Oklahoma had a beautiful statue of Mary. The church I go to now has stained glass above the altar depicting the Annunciation and Nativity. The Annunciation is one of my most favourite images in art. I know there are many evangelical Christians who would be wary about granting her too much importance. Even so, I am glad for these images of her, for she inspires me: such courage in meekness, such beauty in faith, such strength in obedience.
‘What does it mean to be the favoured one?
What does it mean that God is with you?
God is with you.
God is with me, too.’
‘Mary bites her lip and takes a breath,
nods her head and says, “Let it be done.”
Just behind this thick-skinned warrior,
lies a girl who understands the days to come.’
Today’s sermon was given by the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe. He spoke first of hope, the expectation of something unseen: that hope is the heart seeing the invisible as visible. Then he spoke of patience, and more specifically, ‘patient endurance’. The pairing of those two words was revelatory to me, especially when twinned with hope. I most often associate endurance with my arthritis and other physical and mental ailments; with the long-term, with just getting through each day. It is not something I have associated with patience, nor with hope.
Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Patience can be an active verb, not simply passive. I can patiently endure with hope that justice is not forgotten; that the day of restoration will include judgement as well as healing. That it will be as it was in our reading from Isaiah this morning:
‘Strengthen the weak hands,
and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
“Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
He will come and save you.”‘ (Isaiah 35.3-4)
The bishop also spoke of community and of sharing patience with others. We wait for the Day of the Lord together. But waiting, enduring, hoping are active verbs too. We wait by being the Church, we endure by bearing each other’s burdens, we hope by sharing in love.
We must ask ourselves the same questions that I quoted earlier: What does it mean to be the favoured one? What does it mean that God is with us?