globalgirl Advent Adventure: Something About Mary

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(Idelette’s note: Today we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, the greatest revolutionary and gift to the world ever. Danielle Strickland writes on the woman who gave birth to Jesus, a revolutionary in her own right. What a great perspective from a woman who does her part to incite a revolution for Jesus on the planet.)

Something About Mary
By Danielle Strickland

Recently at an afterschool club in an inner city neighbourhood we spoke about Mary. For protestants, the fear around worshiping Mary often crowds out a proper response at the amazing reality of Mary’s life story and witness. And I’d like to consider a couple of important things about her. Use them to reflect, emulate and well, just for plain inspiration.

Scripture: Luke 1

Gender
It is worth some consideration that the Jewish people have been waiting in silence for 400 years since the last prophetic announcement of a coming Messiah. That’s a long time to wait–exacerbated, I’m sure, by the occupation they now find themselves in. The fever for a Messiah had not been hotter. Apart from the miraculous intervention of oil in the Temple during the Maccabean revolt (which is symbolized in Hannukah), there was stunning silence from the Heavens. Until, Elizabeth prayed and Mary obeyed.

Then, all of heaven was loosed on earth, and the world would never be the same. In a Middle Eastern culture of degradation and oppression, in a religious system that pushed down women to the level of a dog–God shows up at their request, at their response and through their loving obedience to Him. This would be the time to write “wow” in the margin of your Bible. It’s epic.

William Booth (founder of The Salvation Army) once famously said, “(Some of) my best men are women” and most people think that he meant it as a grudging practical response to the enormous need–that he had to use women to get the job done. They’d be mistaken. William came to a conclusion, with many thanks to his heroic wife, Catherine, that women were God’s chosen vessel for Good News. Mary is the case in point, but it’s incarnation Good News–the event crowning the history of all events–the start of the good news through the birth of Jesus is announced by and established through a woman. The victory of Good News through the resurrection would also be the honour of women. A coincidence?

Both events are historical shifts–cosmic-sized moments of God communicating beyond words of His intention to redeem all of humanity–both of them done through women. To be sure men are also central to the story. Joseph deserves more than a Father’s Day nudge for his own obedience and accompaniment of Mary’s journey, Zechariah’s silence was helpful, and the offspring of both women were men of Great News and the twelve disciples etc… but the essential role that women have played in the ushering in of God’s kingdom come can’t be overstated. Yet, it’s often overlooked.

Economics
Back to my neighbourhood; an urban welfare housing estate full of first generation Australian immigrants whose parents are on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. As a result, the kids are not exactly the cream of the crop of civilized and educated young Australians. None of them are likely to win Australian youth of the year any time soon. As a matter of fact, the only extra curricular activities going on in this neighbourhood are free, volunteer-driven, inconsistent, and a bit lacking in quality. No offense to the volunteers of church groups that continue to fill the gap- but the reality of their lives lined up with the wealthier suburban kids in western worlds… well, it doesn’t compare. These kids are starting at a deficit.

I spoke with a camp leader years ago who was convinced that one of the best ways to change the nation was to target wealthy kids at his camps. He recognized that charity demanded care for the marginalized kids of the world – but in the real world… we ought to target those who would rise to be the future leaders, decision makers in the fabric of society. It’s an interesting angle. Mary was from the urban welfare masses. She lacked education, economic security and basic human rights. She was, well, poor. She was on the bottom economic rung of societies coveted money and status ladder.

You know how you can tell? Read her song. Do it. Read her song like you are with her in the proclamation of God’s kingdom come. The song reads like gangster rap lyrics from Compton but with Heavenly overtones. “Filled the hungry, but sent the rich away… lifted up the humble, and brought down the proud.” We may like to think of Mary as a postcard image of humility and meekness – but her lyrics may just give us a hint of her known oppressed state overturned by God’s intervention. Mary is a fighter – she fought the powers and won. She used obedience to God as a weapon against her enemies and from the bottom rung she began her climb. And in God’s kingdom come – she ends up in a great cosmic reversal on the top end of the ladder – shouting to all who will listen… good news, good news indeed! Jesus said it himself when he began his public ministry thirty some years later, although he borrowed an old pop favourite from Isaiah, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has brought Good News to the POOR.”

Freedom fighter
There is a lot more about Mary that’s worth considering. Most things we’ve admired over the years: her obedience, her humility, her survival and dependence on the Lord, her favour with God, her faithful witness raising Jesus, her grief at his short life and tragic death. But this season–let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the revolutionary figure of Mary. Mary the freedom fighter, Mary the oppressed–set free. Mary, the poor girl from the bad side of town rising against the odds to defy the world’s system of power, defy the critics and become central in the great unfolding drama of God’s kingdom come. Now with that kind of news, there is something about Mary, indeed.

About Danielle:
Danielle Strickland is a speaker, writer and captain in the Salvation Army, currently serving as Social Justice director for Australia/South. Check out her blog at Army Barmy Remix.

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