Mary, (how) did you know?

In this era of fake news, how do you know what’s true?

We each have our preferred news outlets. We customize the news feeds on our phones. We cancel sources (and friends) who tell us things we don’t want to hear.

We say something is true “if it works for you.”

Of all the news that’s ever been delivered in all of history, the news Mary received from the angel Gabriel has to be among the hardest to believe.

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”  (Luke 1:31-33)

If we received an email or a text like this, we’d block the sender.

But Mary didn’t get to pick and choose her source. And I doubt she considered whether this news was going to “work for her.”

What Mary did was to thoughtfully process what the angel had told her. English translations say she “wondered” or “pondered.” In the end, she told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

The Christian faith cannot just be true “if it works for you.”

The Christian faith only works if it’s true.

Mary considered the source…an angel.

Mary considered the message in light of what she knew about God.

Mary chose to believe.

And that’s how she knew what the angel told her was true.

Why doesn’t Easter change us?

A long time ago, a grieving woman went to a garden tomb to pay last respects. Mary had lived a life of torment and despair. Today, we’d probably say she suffered from mental illness; in our day, it seems epidemic. Mary had intended to say farewell to her teacher and friend, the one who had given her hope when everyone had given up on her.

Nothing could have prepared her for what she found. The stone covering the entrance to the tomb had been removed; the body was gone; and just the burial cloths remained. Mary ran to get her friends. They ran back to the tomb and found things just as she had said.

While the men went off to process what they’d seen, Mary just stood there crying. Then someone called her name, “Mary!” and as she turned to look, the whole world turned with her. There was Jesus, her teacher and friend, risen from the dead.

You can’t make this stuff up: the most important meeting in the history of the world was between God and a mental patient.

In some ways Mary was like a lot of us. She’d lived a life of desperation, possessed by something beyond her control. But from that moment on, her life had purpose. She was the first evangelist of the Good News, her name forever synonymous with resurrection hope.

Why aren’t we changed like Mary?

I’ve become convinced that it’s because we don’t put our beliefs into action. We don’t worship, study, pray, serve, or share our faith as we should. In other words, we don’t make ourselves available to God in ways that allow change to take place.

In a world filled with depression, anxiety, bullying, division, and worse, we should all be running to our friends with the Good News.

Jesus can still change you the way he changed Mary. Could this be the year you let him?

Worn out?

Worn out from all your holiday activities?

Imagine that you were Mary and Joseph, carrying the secret of your child’s identity for months. Then your child arrived when you were a long way from home. Surely you’d be exhausted and want nothing more than to hole up for a month or two. Take some family leave. But Mary and Joseph had one more duty to perform. As observant Jews, they needed to go to the temple to present their firstborn son to the Lord.

They could not have expected what happened there. They encountered two people, Simeon and Anna, who confirmed their child was God’s Son, the ultimate expression of God’s redeeming love. Simeon had seen much in his long life, but when he held Jesus in his arms, at last he’d seen it all.

I wonder. What if Mary and Joseph had decided sleep in? What if Simeon and Anna had decided, at their age, it just wasn’t worth going to the temple anymore?

There will be lots of days when we won’t feel inspired. There will be lots more when we want to sleep in. Believe me, I know what I’m talking about. We may even have good excuses. But sometimes, like Mary and Joseph, we need to do the right thing even when we don’t feel like it.

You don’t have to be smart, creative, inspired, well-dressed, or good looking. Anyone could have an encounter with the Messiah.

Sometimes, all you need to do is show up.