Tile: The Lord is with you
Text: Luke 1:26-38
Date: Dec 18, 2011
Author: Isaac S. Villegas
Prayer: May the Holy Spirit come upon us, and the power of the Most High overshadow us. May it be done to us according to your word.
During Christmas, we remember that God has come close, that God has drawn so close, as close to us as a soon-to-be born child is to her mother: God in a womb, God in flesh. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (Lk 1:35), the angel says to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son” (v. 31) and “he will be called the Son of God” (v. 35); “the Lord is with you” (v. 28).
That’s the good news: the Lord is with you. This is the gospel made flesh during Advent. God is with you. There’s really nothing else to say. All the rest of what we say about God, about ourselves, about the world, is simply commentary on this one truth, this simple yet mysterious reality: the Lord is with you.
As experience teaches us, this doesn’t mean our lives will be free from heartache, free from suffering; this doesn’t mean our lives will be free from loss. As Simeon, the old man at the temple, tells Mary as she brings her newborn to be circumcised: “a sword will pierce your own soul too” (2:35). He was prophesying the death of her child while Mary was still holding him in her arms.
Mary, the one who is full of grace, the one who is reassured by the angel with words of peace, whose life bears witness to the presence of God in the world, that the Lord is with you — this Mary will also bear the weight of death, separation from her grown child: the sword that pieced the side of Jesus on the cross also pierces Mary’s soul.
What does Advent mean for Mary, and for us? What does it mean for God to be with Mary, and with us? It means that the story of God — the way we name God, the way we come to know God — cannot be separated from the stories of human lives, from Mary’s life and from our lives, from very human stories of great joy and overwhelming sadness; because, in Jesus, God has become flesh.
God has chosen humanity, chosen us, God has chosen you — God has chosen life with you. Advent means that God will not be God without us. The Incarnation of God in Jesus means that God will not leave us or forsake us, that God cannot leave us or forsake us because God has chosen human life as his life, human life as her life.
In Mary’s womb we see the eternal decision of God: to be for us, to be on our side, to join our struggle, to share in our suffering and our joy and our love. During advent we hear the announcement of God’s promise that nothing will separate us from the love of God: the promise of atonement, of at-one-ment, being at one with God, united with God, in Jesus, through the Holy Spirit who comes upon us now as she did to Mary.
Christmas is a story of a birth, the birth of a mystery that invites us into a place where words fail us, where poetry is born, where reason tumbles into faith — where something, someone, stirs up hope within us, the possibility of new life, light in darkness, God crossing into the life of the flesh, inviting us into another world, a world with God.
The words of the angel are not only for Mary, but also for us: “The Lord is with you.” (1:28). Mary shows us how to respond: she is bewildered at the announcement of such a mystery: God in the flesh, God within her, drawing human life from her body.
With this news, with miracles, nothing is certain anymore. She invites us into a new world where nothing is certain except for the Word of God, the promise of God. May Mary’s words become our own as we learn to live in a world of miracles, on shaky ground yet full of hope: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be done with me according to your word” (v. 38).
 “Understood with reference to the incarnation, atonement returns to its English lexical roots: at-one-ment—a sense of the atonement that now can no longer be limited to the cross. Humanity is at one with the divine in Jesus. This is true on the cross as much as everywhere else in Jesus’ life and that is what is saving about it.” Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 256.