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Making the ordinary sacred: Mary and blessing the everyday

‘Creator’s Mighty One (Gabriel) said to her, “Greetings, highly favoured one! You are close to the Great Spirit and greatly honoured among women.”’ Luke 1:28

‘[Creator Is My Promise (Elizabeth)] was filled with the Holy Spirit, and with a loud cry she lifted her voice and spoke these blessing words to Bitter Tears (Mary). “The Most Holy One has honoured you more than any other woman,” she laughed. “The child you carry inside you will bring great blessings to all people. Why is Creator being so kind to me, sending the mother of the Great Chief to visit my home? As soon as I heard your greeting, my baby jumped for joy inside me! You have been chosen by the Maker of Life for a great honour, because you believed his words to you.”’ Luke 1:41-45

Tell me about an ordinary day. How does it begin? Do you linger under the warmth of the covers, eyes still closed, mind still a vague smudge of consciousness? Or are you startled awake by your alarm, an unwelcome adrenaline rush of lateness while your sleep-slowed body tries to catch up?

And what then? A trip to the loo, a rummage for clean clothes? Pouring bowls of cereal for children, feeding the cat, calling down the hall to teenagers still lost in sleep? Maybe brushing your teeth with one hand, checking your phone with the other. Leaving the house in the frosted dark to catch the bus to school, to university, headphones providing a morning soundtrack while you gaze out of rain-smeared windows.

Is lunch a grabbed sandwich at a desk, in an office full of souls doing the same, staring at screens, taking calls, brushing crumbs from keyboards? Perhaps it’s scraped together from a near-empty cupboard, the last of the pasta, the last of the biscuits. The day goes by. You sweep the floor, empty the bins. You scan the shopping, pack the customer’s bags. You give bad news to a patient, good news to a pupil. You lay the baby down for a nap. You walk the dog. You hand over the parcel on the doorstep. You scroll on your phone, drink tea, wonder about dinner. So the day goes on, with a vague sense of déjà vu – “have I done this before?” (yes) “have I been here before?” (yes). It’s another day, and often it seems like it’s every day.

We can each tell this kind of story of our ordinary life, and we sometimes diminish it as a result. Where is the sacred in the small? Where is the blessing in our everyday? What does blessing even mean?

The Bible Project says that God’s blessing is about flourishing, about God sharing his life-producing ability with others (see their short “Blessings and Curses” film online), so when we name something as blessed we are declaring it as life-giving, reflecting God’s desire for creation’s flourishing. Those small acts of doing simple, necessary tasks, such as preparing food, going to bed, working, caring for others, caring for ourselves…could it be that these are blessed because they are the stuff of life?

This week we are exploring what it might mean for the ordinary to be declared blessed, through the window of Mary’s life as she learned she was to be mother of Jesus, the one also called Emmanuel – God with us.

Imagine you are Mary for a moment. A young girl, engaged to be married to a young carpenter called Joseph, living in “a small, out-of-the-way place in the hill country called Seed Planter Village (Nazareth)” (Luke 1:26). You are living a life similar to so many other young women of that time. You wake and you wash, prepare food, share laughter and tears with friends. You eat, you go to the market, you sweep the floor, you feel the chill of a cold night and search for a warmer blanket. It’s all so ordinary.

Yet in the midst of this profound ordinariness, we learn that Mary (Bitter Tears in this translation) is blessed. She is honoured for her faithfulness and entrusted with the mystery and miracle of bringing Jesus, God with us, into this ordinary world.

Tomorrow we continue to contemplate Mary’s life, and will wonder together at the significance of “Bitter Tears”.

May your ordinary life be freshly illuminated for you today, seen in the kind glow of everyday blessings.

Vicky Allen

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