We have snapshots of Mary. Quite literally today, up in this corner, we have depictions of Mary from all over the world, throughout the centuries, streaming
during the sermon. Beautiful, diverse, snapshots of the one we call virgin Mary, mother of God, or Theotokos. Our lady. But this is also a metaphor for the way we encounter Mary- we have snapshots, one dimensional imaginings of this woman, above us. Mary- nearly the closest figure to a feminine divine that we have in Christian literature, and in some ways so holy and untouchable that she is an unreal woman. Today I’d like to propose that we make Mary real.
By the way, I checked in with Joseph, and he is fine. When we honor Mary, sometimes the second breath is, “man I feel bad for Joseph!” In the Gospel of Luke, that we are working with today, the angel comes to Mary, where in the Gospel of Matthew, the angel comes to Joseph in a dream. What we call the “annunciation,” the angel visitation to Mary, happens instead to Joseph in the Gospel of Matthew.
So I am here to tell you, that Joseph is okay. He had to make a really hard decision to take his pregnant girlfriend in and adopt her child, being that he was a descendant of King David and she was more of a peasant girl. Hard decision, but he makes the right one with angelic assistance. But Mary, the only female figure we have in the crèche among the shepherds and wise men, and angels are almost never depicted as female gendered in the Bible- it is a thing of interpretation that we get these blonde haired blue eyes female angels.
Mary is the only female gendered one at the nativity scene, and the closest thing to a feminine divine, after the Wisdom Sophia, that we have in Abrahamic religions. And after Jesus is born, as any parent may experience, the show is really about her kid. So this is the moment we have with Mary, and the one Sunday where we really honor her. So let us celebrate Mary, with joy in our hearts!
What is this concept of a feminine divine? Is it just shifting pronouns in our prayers sometimes, from He to She? Or is there a distinctly feminine aspect of the divine, that brings us something different?
In their book, Dancing in the Flames, The Dark Goddess and the Transformation of Consciousness, Marion Woodman and Elinor Dickson speaks of a divine with a distinctly feminine nature, “This unknown figure whom so many people encounter in their sleep speaks to the psyche and to the very cells of the body. She seems to push through from the very depths of the collective unconscious like a universal force that speaks individually and culturally. She speaks to men as clearly as women.” So whether we make Mary real or not today, these two authors argue that the feminine divine will pulse through anyway.
Whether you know the bible or not, scriptures serve as a sort of spiritual blue print for our psyches, a framework within which we understand ourselves. Mary holds a lot of the feminine for us, so let’s do our best to flesh Mary out a little bit.
The story in Luke is the longest account of Mother Mary in the bible. We actually have Mary in quite a few different settings and tones- She is young, maybe 13, and peasant girl, finds herself pregnant somehow. She is sure this pregnancy means she is done for- out of wedlock she could be stoned to death.
We have Mary exhibiting dark emotions, she is deeply disturbed and fearful when the angel Gabriel visits, this takes place in Nazareth of Galilee.
But she is told, that what she thought meant death to her, will mean life for the whole world. Surely skeptical, she chooses to trust, “here I am Lord.”
When the angel leaves, Mary travels quickly to the hill country of Judah to Zechariah’s house to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Mary’s tone shifts when she encounter’s Elizabeth, who echoes the blessing of the Angel, because the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps- that John the Baptist, rowdy even in utero.
And then Mary sings her song, where she praises God, proclaims justice for the oppressed, and places her own story within the context of her Jewish faith and the covenant that God made with her people Israel. Mary’s song makes her real.
She echoes the words of the prophet Isaiah. And the foremothers of her Jewish traditions, women who also sang songs, Miriam, Deborah and Hannah. She proclaims justice. She begins these reversals that her son Jesus becomes famous for.
Listen to these strong statements about God that flow from Mary’s lips, God “has shown strength,” “has scattered the proud,” “has brought down the powerful,” “has lifted up the lowly,” “has filled the hungry,” “has sent the rich away empty,” “has helped Israel.” Mary puts God’s mercy in the context of God’s original covenant with Israel, “I will be your God and you will be my people.”’
Trisha Lyons Senterfitt writes, “For years Mary has been portrayed as submissive because of her yes to God at the annunciation. Today it is time to recognize that this prophetic woman also said no to all that negates God’s purposes in human history.”
Mary’s song makes her real. If we don’t make Mary real, we will hold ourselves and our women up to impossible standards, without even knowing it. Maybe Mary is already real to you, and that is wonderful. Maybe another aspect of a feminine divine is real to you, maybe your spirituality has a sense of a Mother Earth, or a Shadow Goddess, or Wisdom. If this is the case, as your Pastor, I really affirm. When we unlock different aspects of the divine, we unlock different parts of ourselves, that allow us to become more integrated, whole, forgiving, and loving human beings- male and female alike.
I wish we could hear the tune Mary used, the key she sang it in. The way she paused between the verses, and what was the chorus? We can read Mary’s one dimensional joy, but only we can make her real joy come alive through our song now, the way our voice becomes energy and falls on the people around us.
I love this line that Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” We have always interpreted Elizabeth as saying, Mary is the best out of all the women. Today, I’d like to interpret Elizabeth’s words as saying, Mary, when you are among women, you are blessed. Joseph gives Mary social and political actualization, but Elizabeth gives Mary spiritual actualization- allows for her soul to sing a song of justice. Bringing Mary here, among women (and men!) makes her real.
Let us flesh Mary out, and bring Mary down from up there, to exist with. So there can be a multitude of faces to the divine feminine. Let us make Mary as real as she is longing to become, allowing her to become embodied among us, for after all, this is the message her Christ-child will bring to the world, that God is among us, we enact God, Emmanuel, God with us. Vladimir Soloviev writes, “Let it be Known; today the Eternal Feminine, In an incorruptible body is descending to earth. In the unfading light of the new Goddess, Heaven has become one with the depths.” Let it be so. Amen.