Mt 1:18-25 The Holy Mother Nov. 26, 2017 Service
Today is a kind of strange Sunday, that comes around, I guess, every seven (7) years. Since Christmas Eve and the fourth Sunday of Advent are the same day this year, it becomes a bit of a quandary for worship planners like me. I am fully aware that some of you may decide on Sunday, December 24th that one church service will be enough, or you will be travelling and you may not make it to the Sunday morning service. How will I develop the Advent themes when I am one Sunday short?
Last night I was at the Fraserburg United Church Christmas Dinner sitting with three other Ministers – the church equivalent of “the kids’ table” – and we got talking about it. Donna, the Minister at Baysville said that some of our colleagues were starting Advent today. She was appalled, and I was looking a little sheepish, as I had planned to push the season a bit myself, so that Mary’s story won’t get lost in the semi-shortened season.
I have always been a bit fascinated with Mary’s story – not only in the Bible, but in the centuries since it was written. Working in India and Nicaragua, I used to hang out with a lot of nuns, who often took me under their wings, and so I was immersed in their devotion to Mary. Roman Catholics, on the whole, place a much bigger emphasis on her than we do – their Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Holy Mother. They pray to her for intercession, have statues and pictures of her in their homes and gardens . . . To a good protestant it seems to verge on idolatry. I wonder what our friend from last week, Martin Luther, thought about Mary?
I want to show you a montage which Alan & I have been working on. Actually, mostly Allan, and the people who sent us in pictures. The hymn “Holy Mother” is offered by the unlikely duo of Eric Clapton and Luciano Pavarotti. We will offer it now.
So, I have a theory, or maybe just a strong opinion about Mary, and her place in our life of faith. I love the R.C. Church – its beauty and ancient rituals – but I could never be an R.C. because of the strict hierarchy with all those celibate men at the very top, and an almost exclusively male God above them.
But, if you’ve ever been to Europe you’ll know who the vast majority of churches are named for: can you guess? No protestant church that I know of is named “St. Mary’s” or “Church of Our Lady”.
I have often thought why do they need Mary? Why can’t they just see that God is not only male? The dyed-in-the-wool Protestant feminist that I am says, the God presence encompasses both genders, so you don’t have to make a human into a goddess. And then there is the whole question of sex and virginity. What’s that all about?
Then I realized how subversive the presence of Mary is in the church. We all long for a Holy Mother, even if our own Mothers were not all we wanted them to be – or maybe even more so if our feelings towards our earthly mothers is hurtful or discomforting. Mary works and that may be part of why people love Christmas so much, even us Protestants. It is a time when the Holy Mother comes front and centre sharing the limelight second only to her son. So we will leave her here this week, and let her usher us into this holy season of waiting and watching.