Mary Falls Apart

This past Sunday I preached on the importance of Mary as an inspirational symbol of faith. In contrast to our reformations forebears, many of us see in her a model of strength and faith.

Then this week I have heard two stories of Mary falling down. One was the fall of the Mary figure in the crèche at our church school’s advent party last week and the other was the accidental bumping of a statue of Mary at a local church which resulted in the separation of the statue’s head from its body. It has been a rough week for Mary.

A colleague tells how her church used mannequins to stand in for the crèche participants in a life-size manger scene on the front lawn of her church. They also put live sheep in the manger. She says that it was common for the sheep to rub up against the mannequins and often knock them over. Her sermon about this annual event was entitled, “Mary Falls Apart.”

I always think of that story about this time of year. As the best-laid plans for a peaceful and orderly Christmas meet up with life’s realities—illnesses, delays, procrastination and other unplanned for events. I can relate to Mary.
In the Bible it says that Mary, rather than falling apart at her unplanned predicament, actually thrived and found great hope in her place in the history of God’s interaction with humanity. I think one reason for this is that she took a long term look. She was but one small piece of God’s story. God had since the beginning of time lifted up the lowly and brought down the proud. We may find purpose and meaning in the falling apart, as we do in the putting together.

I hope that you are not falling apart at this time and your Christmas plans are well on track. But, if your plans, like mine, seem to have been hijacked by some strange ghost of Christmas present, do take comfort in the hope that came in that manger so long ago. Christmas, as the Grinch found out, comes “without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

This Christmas may we find our place in God’s prophetic history that continually calls for us all to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This occurs no matter how many times Mary falls apart.

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