The very first sermon I ever preached was called “Ordinary Mary.”
It explored the Annunciation of Mary, when God asked an ordinary girl to play an extraordinary part in healing the world (Luke 1:26-56). As a fourteen-year-old young woman, I was fascinated with this God who would invite people like me into such plans.
It was and is still important to me today to emphasize the human-ness of Mary, her ordinariness. Her story bears much hope and power, but only if she is not immaculately conceived, “born [especially] pure,” or whatever else nonsense folks have put on her over the centuries of church argument.
Put plainly, they have been trying to figure out what to do with a woman so intimately involved in the redemption of the world.
Mary being a woman is not enough for some theologies. Their deficient doctrines of original sin gets in the way; Mary has to be immaculately conceived in order to be holy enough to get pregnant with God. But not only does this not have to be true, it misses the point of the incarnation. God became flesh and dwelt among us. The scripture does not say God became “perfected flesh” or “oddly pure” flesh. The Word became flesh, period, of a woman who just so happened to get one every month.
Mary’s story bears its intriguing and liberating lesson if Mary is just Mary—a human female chosen to be the mother of God, chosen to birth Jesus into the world.
Mary was a woman. Mary was beloved of God and respected by God (consent!). And her Yes changed the course of history.
Negating the ordinary and expressly female nature of Mary negates the profound ministry of this person and her relationship with God. It negates the droves of women who have followed her example in service to the Divine. Negating Mary’s ordinary human flesh cheapens her—and all women—into a pawn in someone else’s game.
But that ain’t the way it happened. Thanks be to God that the story says something different.
Mary’s autonomous human nature comes through.
Her brave heart listened to Gabriel’s message. Her thinking brain interrogated the angel’s news. Her community-rooted spirit moved her feet to Elizabeth’s door. And her confident voice raised in embodied gospel proclamation.
My fourteen-year-old self trembled to meet this ordinary Mary because in doing so I met me. I met a young woman beloved of God, respected by God, and called by God to the fullest of her humanity.
God calls us—ordinary, human, and just as we are—to bear Christ in the world. Ordinary Mary shows just what can happen if we answer.
The Feast of the Annunciation
AKA: Celebrating Mary's Announcement; "The Feast of the Incarnation," or "Lady Day"
Today is when the Body of Christ the world over celebrates the moment an ordinary woman said yes to God. Her yes changed everything.
Nerdy Tidbit: The traditional date to celebrate is March 25--nine months before we celebrate Christmas Day. However, this year March 25 fell during Holy Week, which bumps Lady Day to the first Monday after the Easter Octave (the first 8 days of Eastertide).
How to Celebrate:
Here are just a few ways to feast it up!
1. Remember her story.
Evidently “Lady Day” (Vårfrudagen) and “Waffle Day” (Våffeldagen) sound a whole heck of a lot alike in Swedish, which is just wonderful. So it's customary to have a waffle for Mary.
How could anyone not be down for that?!
We’ll be waffle feastin’ tonight!
3. Watch Sister Act!
We’re going to watch Sister Act, which is still one of my favorite movies, forever amen.
They sing “Hail Holy Queen” (above). The song is what first made me think of the movie for today. However, after I thought about it, the whole movie is about women learning to love themselves, one another, and their community for the love of God. So there's that.
And it’s funny.
Happy feast day, beloveds.
I pray a true kinship with Mary for you--that you, too, may feel empowered in your blessed human nature to participate in God's wondrous love for the world.