Monday, December 19, 2011 — Week of 4 Advent , Year Two
Lillian Trasher, Missionary in Egypt, 1961
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p 939)
Psalms 61, 62 (morning) 112, 115 (evening)
I am more like Zechariah than I am like Mary. When the angel visits with an unexpected insight of peculiar wonder, I am much more likely to ask, “How will I know that this is so?” than I am to respond, “Let it be with me according to your word.”
I am a natural doubter. I tend to hedge my bets and need some corroborative evidence before I commit. Even when I’ve tilted to a place where I mostly believe something, a large portion of me stays in abeyance, nurturing a comfortable doubt, just in case. I don’t jump in with both feet, not at first.
Like Zechariah, it can take me a long time for me to find my voice. When I first encounter a new wonder — an insight that challenges the way I used to think — my heart quickens, and I am intrigued. But before I commit completely, I need to think about it some more, investigate and wonder. I need to live with the subject for a while. I tend to keep my mouth shut for a time, trying to figure out the implications and angles.
I’m not like Mary. I need some time to settle in before I can exclaim “Here am I the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” I might think to myself, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” but it will take me a whi.e before I’ll say it out loud. I’ll worry about the revolutionary consequences of some thought that threatens to turn things around. I’ll trouble over the implications for a bit before I’m willing to sing publicly “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones.” I’d like to avoid all of that discomfort if I can. It just takes me a little while longer to get used to my world being changed.
But after I’ve lived with something for a while. After I’ve let it warm in the crockpot, after it has brewed and seeped with a few more ingredients that can flavor and enhance my overall understanding, I can find my voice. I can, like Zechariah, name the truth I have come to know. Eventually I can stand up to the questions — “None of your relatives has this name” — and I can make my defense. Maybe because I was an English major in college, sometimes I can even find some satisfying words to speak of the new truth: “By the tender mercy of our God the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” I’ve got a gift to give the church also. Sometimes the radical implications of the gospel sound better in a soft, Southern accent.
Yet, I envy the “Mary-types.” I admire those who seize the wonder with such instant singleminded grace and power. I wish I could jump like the shepherds who run so quickly when the angels sing a new heavenly hymn. I’ll watch silently from the shadows to see what they stir up, to test whether my intuition stays vibrant, as they proclaim what I suspect might be so. When I finally speak up, I feel a bit apologetic toward those who took the brunt of the first heat. But we are cousins. We are family — Mary and Zechariah.
We all have our parts to play — natural believers and natural doubters. We are who we are, and God’s messengers visit us all. I thank the Mary’s who wait patiently for us Zechariah’s to find our voice. The Holy Family welcomes both the enthusiastic shepherds and the ponderous, slow magi with their calculations and unnecessary gifts. It’s all good. We’re just different. Different temperaments; different timing. But for God, a thousand years is like a day. And God will have God’s way.