Presenter: Rev. Kate Walker, Mark Zimmerman and Ann Richards
Homily for Christmas Eve, by the Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker; with remarks by the Rev. Dr. Walker about United Community Ministries’ mission in our community and a prayer for hope on Christmas Eve.
Rev. Dr. Kate R. Walker
Christmas Eve Story/Homily [Transcript]
24 December 2017
A Story for All Time:
And Mary Prayed
Mary did you pray that night? Did you call out to Yahweh in the darkness from your economy lodgings? With your labor well under way, did you raise your fist in defiance as the strong woman we know you to be? You knew what was happening. You had been told by Gabriel, you chose to listen and to obey. “May it be” you said to Gabriel when told of your destiny. Then you shared the news with your cousin Elizabeth. She knew right away what you were risking. Two women in a land of misery and poverty, barely getting by, the two of you conspiring to overthrow that hideous Roman monster!
Rebel that you are, you did not shrink into a corner and hide, nor did you sit and kvetch. No one would have blamed you had you chosen differently. Instead, you told your betrothed, despite the huge risk of your reputation in a land where shame and honor were like Superglue with no remover. With your subversive baby on the way, ready to undercut the oppressive Herod the Great and his constant egotistical demands for more taxes (so he could build his outlandish palaces), I ask again, Mary did you pray?
I suspect you prayed a lot while raising Jesus. You knew all too soon what a very bright kid you had, didn’t you? When Jesus was left behind at the Temple after Passover (oops), every parent’s worst nightmare, you returned in time to find him conversing with the doctors like he was one of them, a regular Doogie Howser! I suspect, like all parents throughout the ages, that kid challenged you!!!
Did you really complain to him about running out of wine at that wedding reception? I think you were setting him up to perform another miracle. “Hey, Jesus, we need more wine,” wink, wink. He kind of sassed you, for he knew what you were doing. But he did as told, and a miracle was had, water into wine. Now what Jewish mother doesn’t like to brag and show off her son!
Mary, you came from nowhere, you were a no body, and your story is barely known. Conjecture really, details being filled out over time as a faith was born from your womb. Your face has been painted a million times, seen in the clouds and the side of mountains. You have inspired, compelled and comforted countless millions over the ages as humanity has struggled with itself again and again. You’ve been portrayed as strong and defiant, gentle and meek, you’ve been misunderstood, and mythologized. You have been practically and popeishly deified. You’ve been politicized and demoted just as the Protestants discovered you!
But in the end, you were the first that ushered in a rebellion, a revolution, a direct challenge to the powers over you and your new family. Know what I think? Nice girls don’t change the world! You prayed and sang for peace! With all your strength, with all your heart, with all your faith, you prayed and sang that peace was being born that night.
With your tiny little baby, gently held in your arms for the first time, did you pray? As the donkeys brayed, and the dogs sniffed, as the lambs called out, and the cows moved closer, did you pray? As the magi showed up (what a surprise that was!), did you wander into the night air, stars above showing the glory of heaven, did you look down into your arms and call out to your God?
You did! In song you prayed. Not words of fear, not words of shame, not words of grief – perhaps the bravest act of all – for you knew what risk your son would bear. But none of this! You sang of glory, you sang of freedom, you sang of exultation! In the first Christmas story, you offered not fear and grief, but gratitude. You declared Herod would be dethroned and the people would be restored to the fullness of life.
Because of your prayers, your song, your courage, we honor you too. You brought the story of all time into this world: A story of peace for all. You did indeed pray that night, perhaps with tears in your eyes, but your throat was open, your voice strong to everyone willing to listen. We hear it now, in a time of pain and oppression. Still, we humans fight with each other, still, we know too many that oppress the hungry and the poor. Still, we yearn for salvation.
But this is what we know to be true; on each night that a child is born, a savior is born. Each night a child is born, is a holy night. Mary, your prayers are still heard tonight and all nights. Your gracious song of gratitude echoes in the cathedrals, the mosques, the synagogues, and the churches, and out into the streets carried by the faithful who believe in humanity’s capacity for goodness, in the strength and the courage to change the world. On this night, your prayers are heard. May your voice be heard in our own.