A Reflection for Advent 4

The blessed virgin Mary.

Super-high up my list of, “people I look forward to meeting in the Kingdom.” It will be such a joy.

Why? Because she will be nothing like the person that I – or you – imagine. Take every single plastic statue or holy picture of Mary and cancel it. Take the school Nativity when you we a sheep or a palm tree, and shelve it. Take all the Hollywood biblical epics ever filmed and bin them. Mary won’t be like that.

How do I know?

Because God just doesn’t work like that. Nothing is actually the way we imagine it is going to be.

If your journey of faith in this world has been quite a long one, you have probably, like me, started to see a bit if a pattern. And that pattern is: when God is at work, expect the unexpected.

When I remember at the end of a day (less often than I should) to reflect on where I came closest to God, I invariably find that it was when I wasn’t feeling, or even expecting to be. close. I expect I mostly miss the moments entirely, because I don’t take time to see and understand. How different (and how much better) my picture of God would be if I learnt the lessons of all those missed moments.

So, when I see God face to face, what I experience will be totally unexpected – completely exploding my impoverished vision of divinity. And when I get to meet Mary, she’ll be nothing like the picture I’ve created in my imagination. Just as I should have expected …

But – and here’s the good bit – there will be a bit of me deep down that will say, “Of course! It all fits! It makes perfect sense! I should have known it all along…”

Because we do know God; we just don’t quite know that we know God. And we know Mary too – because our souls long to magnify the Lord, just like her.

The evidence I offer for this is … the whole of the Old Testament.

The whole story of God’s plan of salvation is there. “God With Us” is foretold by the prophets; the depths of God’s love are sounded in the psalms; the outpouring of grace is hinted at … it’s all there. But you could quite easily read the Old Testament (in an unreflective state of mind) and come to the view that God is a vengeful and hypersensitive Grinch with a phobia for shellfish.

So, when Christmas happened, no one was expecting it.

43 books, 2000 BC years (at least), various visits from angels, and a fair helping of human wisdom, had not led the People of Israel to even remotely expect what God was about to do. Surprise!

But, when it did happen, there were some who in their hearts said, “Yes, yes, yes! Brilliant! Brilliant!”

Though they hadn’t seen it coming, when it did come, the penny dropped, the darkness was lifted from their eyes, and they saw a glimpse of what God was up to. All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

“It all fits!” says Matthew.

“Brilliant! Brilliant!” say Simeon and Anna.


says Mary.