Lift up your eyes
Thursday 16th December
"Your mercy reaches from age to age
for those who fear you.
You have shown strength with your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their conceit;
you have deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places."
Luke 1: 50 – 52
It was 16 years ago when we first realised ‘church’ can be a place of deep pain. The experience snowballed into other areas of life and followed us around like a heavy weight.
Around 4 years ago two good friends, who also happened to be part of the leadership of that first church, asked if they could visit us. They sat with my husband and I and explained they were seeking more of God and the Holy Spirit in their church. The church in question had continued to go through change and many had been lost around the edges along the way. These remarkable people believed that until they visited those who had been hurt, asked their forgiveness on behalf of the leadership and the church they wouldn’t be able to step into all God had for them. It was one of the most life giving conversations I think I’ve ever had in my life. We cried together, laughed together and prayed together, and whilst the circumstances of what happened, can’t be changed, something was restored that night and brought great healing. We know this story is not an isolated one, as people and as a church we make mistakes, we cause pain (often without knowing it) and many are left wounded, isolated and at times forgotten. I’m thankful that this Advent time our eyes can be lifted to the example of Mary. To soak in her humble heart, to find solace in her story and to learn from her words.
This remarkable young girl whose life was so pleasing to God was chosen to be the catalyst to the greatest story ever told. Her words here resinate:
‘His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down the rulers from their thrones, but has lifted up the humble.”
I wonder if she had ever felt insignificant?
Was she one of the humble, who now knew themselves to be lifted up?
I find it interesting, that her story is only told in one of the Gospels.
And yet, her story delivered us a baby, who would be the Saviour of the world.
You all know of that somewhat bewildering, yet interesting question “What 5 people would you invite to a dinner party, anyone you like, dead or alive?!” Mary would definitely be on mine! I would savour the time to ask her how did she genuinely felt as this was happening to her? To be chosen as the one to host the life of the one who would be the Saviour to all the created order of things.
What was it like to mother the Son of God?
Did she often look back to the night when Gabriel came, changed the world as she knew it, and find comfort in those memories?
It is a fascinating thing that God invited Mary to start the story of Jesus’ life. Fascinating too, that she was instrumental, again, when his ministry began at a Wedding in Cana, when he turned water into wine. You can almost picture the cheeky glint in her eyes as she says, “do what he tells you”, the only one in the room who truly knew who he was. This humble life of Mary was used again and again to bring about events that changed the course of humanity. Her reverent fear of God being her solid foundation.
As I reflect on the life of Mary, I am drawn back to that evening and the conversation with our friends. I’m not for a minute saying we can’t experience God if we don’t have these hard conversations and I’m certainly not qualified in any great theological way to argue a position on either side. All I can share is what I’ve experienced. These friends humbled themselves enough, at a great cost of vulnerability, to restore what had been broken and they saw the fruit of that, in their own lives and the life of their church. I find myself imagining what a world would like where the church, as a collective (including you and me of course), would lay down pride and pick up humility? There would be many lives restored and the Kingdom of God would advance, not through power and greatness, but through the deepest humility and gentle tones of grace.
This Advent time my prayer for you, and my prayer for me, is that we lift our eyes to look at the witness of Mary’s life. That we would be impacted and influenced by her humility and the strength of her spirit. That we may take the time to set right some wrongs and like her, to be carriers of the deepest grace, love and mercy.
Linda Hoskins is an artist based in West Lothian. She loves creativity, is passionate about justice and is living life exploring ways to weave the two together, more about this can be found at www.lindahoskins.co.uk. She is wife to Chris and mum to two wonderful boys, Hudson and Eli. Linda is a member of Holy Trinity Wester Hailes and one of her biggest passions is serving, for the past two years, on a team called Streetlights who serve the sex workers in Leith.