Thursday, February 2, 2017

I met her in the Bible (but not in church)

The Word for today:
Luke 1:26-38
You'll hear more about Mary in the coming days, because this writer can't get enough of Mary! In fact, I'm crazy about her, but it wasn't always that way…
When I was a kid, I went to a church that made way too much of Mary. I heard more about Mary, it seemed, than about God. We said prayers to Mary, and some people said the same prayer to Mary about 100 times a day.
I didn't like their Mary. She was placed in her own category, on some semi-god or demi-god stratum that I couldn't reach or relate to:
"From the first moment of her conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was, by the singular grace and privilege of Almighty God, and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of mankind, kept free from stain of original sin." --Pope Pius IX, 1854
Whatever. So I left her there, with her "singular grace and privilege," for about 30 years. Then, after all that time, I met the real Mary in, of all places, the Bible. (Who would have guessed?)
And the real reason she became so special is because she's so ordinary! Ordinary enough to be a model--a prototype--for sinners, just like you and me, who experience the birth of the Savior in our lives.
In all of the gazillion hours I've studied scripture, I've had two Road to Damascus moments. (The Road to Damascus (1) is where Paul the Apostle "saw the light," and came to faith in Jesus.)
Two epiphanies doesn't sound like a lot, but each one of them was more than enough to open my eyes to scripture's profound prototypes.
One of those moments happened for me in the little book of Philemon, when I found myself and Jesus in two verses (Philemon 17-18) which are, ostensibly, about Philemon and Paul. The Bible began to sing to me that day.
The second of these moments happened just a few years ago as I was reading what we're reading today:
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:35)
I must have read that verse 50 times before; but somehow, on my fifty-first reading, I saw right through those lines, right past Mary's unique circumstances as the virgin mother of the Messiah. What I saw in that verse was every believer's story:
The Holy Spirit comes upon us, and now Christ lives within us. (2)
See, Mary's not so special after all! And that's why she's become so special to me.
(1) see Acts 9; (2) see John 3:6 and Galatians 2:20

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