One lesson Mary must have taken in the cold hard light of day after her angelic visitation and the social realities of her pregnancy in her religiously conservative community was that she must have been crazy to say yes! Her life was ruined! Nobody would believe her story of how she got pregnant, least of all her fiancé who loved her but could not face what she had done. Tongues would be wagging, she would have nowhere to go. Without a husband and with a bastard child she would have to scrabble and scrape and bear the shame forever, and so would her child. It was all too horrible to consider but there it was. God why? Why did you do this to me?
Us outcasts understand her predicament. Suffering isolation and exhaustion on the difficult road we each have chosen, we often find ourselves questioning our choices, getting upset with ourselves, those we love and God for the mess we find ourselves in despite our commitment to caring for our loved ones. Like Mary we see how the road ahead is going to get harder and harder.
What does it mean to say yes to God, to say yes to loving sacrifice? I say that lovingly caring for those who need us is to be a child after your loving heavenly father’s heart, whether you know it or not. And so there is a reason in the gathering dark to hope against all hope that the light of love, peace and joy will once more be kindled in our hearts, that our trials will end and we will emerge stronger, wiser and more compassionate then ever.
Of course, we can give in to the pull to believe the negative thoughts and feelings that inevitably accompany exhaustion and so fall deeper into the dark vortex of suffering from which there seems to be no escape. But take heart, because even when it seems hopeless, we are all immersed in the love that created us, no further away from the source of light and love that created and powers the universe than our own breath, and our heavenly father truly cares for us and ours.
In the last days of our advent journey into the dark, we will see how this worked for Mary and Joseph and get some reassurance that we too will be blessed just as we are a blessing in our selfless care of those we have been given.