The Only Constant is Change – Mother’s Day – May 10, 2020
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Okay. Before you all start looking at me like I’ve lost track of time, I am fully aware that it is not December and we are not in the traditional season of celebrating Jesus’ birth. However, if I were to ask you who the most famous mother in the Bible is, who would you answer? (pause) Mary the mother of Jesus. And so, on this Mother’s Day, I thought, “what mother in scripture would be more appropriate to discuss than the mother of our Lord and Savior?”
Mary was a mere teenager when Gabriel appeared to her announcing her upcoming pregnancy. And most of us know the story. Mary and Joseph were betrothed to be married, basically meaning they were already married, but not living together. If either of them had wanted to call off the betrothal, a divorce would have been required. If Joseph had died during the yearlong betrothal period, Mary would have been considered a widow. We’re talking a serious commitment here.
And now, out of the clear blue, Gabriel decides to show up and tell Mary that she is going to have a son.
The closest that I can equate to this is the moment when a woman finds out that she is pregnant – either through one of those at-home pregnancy tests or at the doctor’s office. Reactions and emotions can range from deliriously joyful to distress to disappointment – all depending on the situation in life when the woman taking the test sees the results.
If a woman has been trying to become pregnant, then the reaction will probably be more on the joyful end of the spectrum. If the woman is in the midst of a bad relationship or in a position of financial struggle or has health issues of her own, the reaction will probably tend to be more in the distress area of the spectrum. And if the woman had no intent of becoming pregnant, the reaction will probably lie on the disappointment end of things.
Mary had no plans of becoming a mother at this point in her life. She and Joseph had not sat down together and decided that this was the perfect time to introduce a child into their relationship. They hadn’t picked out the cute crib bedding and the matching wall color for the nursery. This was as far from a planned pregnancy as one could possibly get. If we don’t know this from any other part of the story, we can deduce it from Mary’s reactions to Gabriel.
First, when Gabriel greets her, the scriptures tell us that she is “greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” While I have not been able to directly ask Mary what her thoughts were at the exact moment that Gabriel introduced himself, I’m pretty certain that “greatly troubled” does NOT equate to “I was expecting you, my friend.”
Our second clue comes from her verbal response to Gabriel’s announcement, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Since she did not know how she would become pregnant, I’d say it’s safe to bet that she had not planned to become a mother.
Now, I’m going to go one step further to say that Mary’s emotions at this point are probably somewhere around the “distress” area of the spectrum we discussed a few minutes ago. The scripture doesn’t say she jumped up in a “happy dance” so I’d say “deliriously joyful” is out and her response doesn’t lean itself to “disappointment.” But verse 29 does say “greatly troubled” and that she “wondered what kind of greeting this might be” – also known as a level of distress. And rightly so. Mary’s life changed forever in that precise moment.
Mothers – and fathers too – I want you to think back to that exact moment when you found out you were going to have a child. The very second you saw that plus sign on the test or the nurse walked in smiling. (pause) Your life forever changed. There are no words to precisely describe that moment, but it did – life changed in the blink of an eye. The world has not been the same since.
The first changes started with the mother’s body. Appetite increased. Energy decreased. New clothes had to be bought because areas of the body stretched in ways that flesh and muscle should not…and some parts have yet to return to their original positions.
Changes also occurred in the home. Cribs, strollers, and highchairs had to be acquired. Corners of countertops and tables suddenly appeared to transform overnight into deadly projectiles sticking out everywhere. And sleep…dear precious sleep…vacated the premises completely.
Then came the start of school. Supplies had to be bought…including the fifty packs of hand sanitizer that somehow vanished over the first week of school. A new backpack EVERY year with matching lunchbox. And the school clothes and shoes…which only last until Christmas break because the child is growing way too fast.
Before you know it, it’s time for a driver’s license, cell phone, and money for trips to Steak and Shake and Dairy Queen. Then comes the senior year…including the 1000 pictures that have to be taken including yearbook, prom, and cap and gown.
And just when you think you may get a break, enter the new child-in-law and grandchildren.
So, what is the constant through it all…change. But you’re saying…what about love? Love has remained constant too. Actually, no it hasn’t. Because if you ask any mother – and fathers too – love grew. Just when you thought you couldn’t love that little bundle of joy anymore, the next day would bring a moment when love grew. So, I say, the only constant is change.
Birth brings change. From being a child to college, careers, marriage, singleness, divorce, parenting…all of life brings change. Death brings change. A new way of living a “normal” life is always having to be found.
Life in the church is no different.
The church experiences birth, life, and death just as individuals and families do. Change is constantly occurring…as with life, the only constant in church is change. Yet most days, this word – change – is received with the same repulsive look that four-letter words receive. But why?
As humans, we tend to get comfortable with the way things are. We do that in all aspects of our lives – even as mothers and fathers. Just when we get into the regular routine of prepping bottles, it’s time to switch to sippy cups. Just when we reach the point that we’re glad we didn’t end their lives in middle school, they’re graduating high school and leaving us to go off to college. It’s a cycle that we seem to accept as “a part of life” in all areas except in the church.
But we know change must happen. We obviously do not have the same pastor and congregation members that started the church in 1879. We are not holding service this morning in the same structure that first served as the sanctuary. Change happened.
Is that to say that all things MUST or SHOULD change? No. We must continue to follow the traditions and commands set forth by Jesus – share the message of Christ, celebrate holy communion, baptize believers, love one another, and most importantly love the Lord your God. These traditions and commands remain the same. But we must be careful not to let MANMADE traditions lead to traditionalism out of a fear of change.
Thefreedictionary.com defines traditionalism as an “adherence to tradition, rather than to revelation, independent Bible study, or individual reasoning” …tradition becomes “the authority controlling religious knowledge and practice.”1 In other words, we let tradition become our authority instead of letting the Holy Spirit lead. We begin to follow our tradition before following Christ. We continue to do things the way they have always been done rather than look to God for direction. And this occurs because we don’t want to change. We are comfortable where we are, doing what we are doing, the way we are doing it.
Well, guess what? Mary was comfortable in life too waiting for her betrothal period to end with a move to Joseph’s house. She was comfortable where she was, doing what she was doing, the way she was doing it. And so was Joseph. But thank the good Lord that Joseph did not follow Old Testament tradition. If he had, our story would have a much different ending.