I mentioned earlier that our church is participating in Advent Conspiracy again this year, with each Sunday of advent reflecting on one of the four themes of the project: worship fully, spend less, give more, love all. Each week of advent I’m going to reflect on these themes on my blog. So, theme #1:
The Advent Conspiracy folks put it like this:
It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.
It’s important to understand what is meant by "worship" here. Much more than a Sunday service or singing along to your favorite (or least favorite) religious radio station, worship involves all of life. Eugene Peterson explains this idea of worship well in his translation of Romans 12:1: “So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (MSG). I think this is a the type of “holistic approach” Advent Conspiracy aims to inspire us towards.
For Mary, the mother of Jesus, you could add pregnancy to this list of ordinary everyday experiences. While her call to bear God’s son was immensely spiritual (Holy Spirit conception), the fact is, she was pregnant - one of the most ordinary (and extraordinary!) down-to-earth experiences of human life. Having journeyed with my wife through pregnancy, I know there is no sanitizing of this 9-month experience of both wonder and tribulation. And we see how for Mary, worship is important in the midst of her situation. She doesn’t wait till Jesus is born to express her adoration and commitment to God. And if she only knew what awaited her! Yet worship bursts forth from the very reality of Mary’s physical experience. Immanuel, ‘God with us’, is a reality that warrants response - worship:
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
(Luke 1:46-55 NIV)
In a season where our commitment - our worship - is constantly competed for (watch TV for 10 minutes if you don’t know what I mean), Mary’s response confronts us with a challenge: will our everyday experience of life - the “ordinary” - bring us to worship, where in all we do, our “soul glorifies the Lord”?