Imagine an angel appearing to you in the midst of the busiest time of the year and saying to you that while you haven’t had sex with anyone, you’re going to be pregnant.

My initial thought is: that’s an incredibly raw deal.

But more seriously, if we thought that our advent was busy with the shopping and the parties and the end-of-the-year financials and all the other things that need to get done….

Imagine what life must have been like for Mary.

But perhaps that is the lesson of advent. We are supposed to long for God to be with us…and I reckon that most of the time we don’t, until God pulls the rug out from underneath our feet.

Just as God did to Mary.

Advent is really about unexpected joy in expected chaos. Noticing God in the every day rhythms of our hectic lives. Perhaps Mary is a lot like us. While keeping house she finds this message from God that she is to be with child.

While traditional readings of the Annunciation story often point towards a pious Mary who humbly accepts God’s invitation, I hear a more hesitant Mary, perhaps even an exasperated one.

Doubt: “How can this be? For I have not had relations with a man.”

Fear: “Do not be afraid, Mary.”

Exasperation: “I am the maidservant of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.”

That last piece almost as a ring of “whatever” to it. If we read that first part with a hint of sarcasm to it, Mary’s reply is much like our own. “Well, what else could happen to me today? Guess I’ll just have to roll with it.”

And roll with it she did. A young, unmarried woman, now pregnant in a culture that did not take kindly to women who had relations out of wedlock. The taunts may have been “Sure, sure…God made you pregnant.”
Even initially the man who she was betrothed to considered calling it quits.

The truth of today’s Gospel is that sometimes when God interacts with us and asks something of us, it may very well not be a pleasant situation. And yet, each time we “roll with it” and accept that God just might be able to see us through to the other side of a difficult time, we grow into the person that God knows we can be.

We can indeed stretch much farther than we expect.

Somehow we get the shopping done and find our families overjoyed at our thoughtfulness. Somehow we visit those relatives that might drive us bonkers only to find that they are touched by our presence. Somehow we give a bit more to others and find our hearts more open than usual.

Somehow, God knows that we are capable of much more than what we think will only bring us exasperation.

What is your burdensome invitation? What is God beckoning to you to handle this advent? What might God be asking you to carry in the coming year?

While it may sound daunting at first, God reminds us, as he reminded Mary, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.”

And while it may seem like we are in over our heads, God is with us in our fear, our doubt and our exasperation. And more importantly, God reminds us that He knows our hearts can stretch much father than we think that they can.

All we have to do is believe that.

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