I grew up in Mary’s Land — both geographically and theologically. I grew up at Holy Family School, just across the Potomac, in Hillcrest Heights, Mary-land.
Now MARY (quite impossibly!) is what every little Catholic girl wants to be when she grows up. Well maybe not when she grows up but what every little Catholic girl wants to be in the Christmas pageant. Really — Mary is what every little Protestant girl wants to be in the Christmas pageant!
Alas, it did not come to pass for me until Advent 1983. Pregnant with my second child and obviously not a virgin, at long last I snagged the part of the BVM. Not quite as embarrassing as a liturgical dance, I starred in a three part liturgical drama: PREGNANT WITH GOD.
Three parts. Three trimesters.
Advent One. Surprised. Uncertain. Shaky. Nauseous. Scared.
Advent Two. Blooming. Stretching. Aching. Hoping.
Advent Three. Heavy. Swollen. Sleepless. Bursting.
I burst into the Magnificat!
It was the 80’s and I wore Blessed Mother blue.
Now for millennia, Mary has been draped in Blessed Mother blue — beatific Mary with the fat little haloed Baby Jesus in her lap. And in virtually every painting, in every icon, in every stained glass window, Mary, the Madonna, is also the Mater Dolorosa, Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrows.
“Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child…”
Advent is blue — a season both dark and light — and for four blue Sundays, we’ll walk the way to Bethlehem.
We’ll walk beside a pregnant, unwed teenager, named Mary.
A lowly handmaid of the Lord,
a voiceless woman,
a would-be outcaste,
a poor peasant,
pregnant with God.
This messed up world is waiting – waiting for the 2015th time — waiting for a Messiah to be born. And we don’t like waiting. We REALLY don’t like waiting. We want Christmas carols not Advent hymns – but you can’t fast forward pregnancy.
It takes nine dark months in Mary’s womb.
Nine months of backaches and sleepless nights.
Nine months growing larger and larger, groaning with child.
Nine months until the birth pangs begin.
Nine months for the kingdom to come.
Nine long months to Bethlehem.
And once there — there’s no room at the inn. No room for the holy, helpless, homeless family. No room for the refugees.
Now just across the river is my home state — Mary’s Land. Maryland is where our religious freedom was born. Persecuted by our own Mother Church, The Church of England – Catholics found refuge there in the 17th century. On these colonial shores they found a safe haven – a safe place to practice their faith and build their lives. In Mary’s Land they found a home.
And now Muslim refugees from terror, fleeing the terror of ISIS, crowd our TV screens and climb our FB feed. They clamor for attention, hoping against hope, there will be room in our inn. And their hopes are not founded in vain; their hopes are grounded in our history.
“Here at our sea-washed sunset gates shall stand
A Mighty Woman with a torch,
is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles,
From her beacon-hand
Glows worldwide welcome;
Her mild eyes command…
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In Advent, we light this light, this lamp fire that makes the darkness bright, the Light of the World, who the prophet Jeremiah tells us is coming. This Branch of Jesse’s Tree shall execute justice in the land. He shall save his people and his people shall live in safety.
A prayer and a promise that all of God’s people, all of God’s children will find room in the inn.
So come walk this way. Walk this way to Bethlehem.