The sermon this week is drawn from Luke 1: 26-38, the angel Gabriel’s visit with Mary, and the sermon is entitled “Mary: Jesus’ First Disciple”. Mary’s faith in saying “Let it be to me according to your word”, and Mary’s faithfulness that took her to the foot of the cross and beyond demonstrate that she had an important role to play in Jesus’ ministry and the work of the early Christian church.
To get to the “real Mary”, we do have to cut through a lot of layers and traditions and some beliefs about Mary to understand who she was in her first century context. Sister Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.N., a Roman Catholic nun and biblical scholar, tells us that “it is reasonable to assume that Mary, with her husband Joseph, practiced the Jewish religion in their home, following Torah, observing Sabbath and the festivals, reciting prayers, lighting candles and going to synagogue. . .[After Jesus’ death and resurrection] Mary was a Jewish Christian–the earliest kind of Christian there was. She was never a Roman Christian, never a Gentile at all. So it does no honor to her memory to bleach her of her Jewishness. We’ve done this ethnically by turning her swarthy Jewish complexion into fair skin and blond hair and blue eyes. But we’ve also done this religiously by turning her deeply rooted Jewish piety into that of a latter-day Catholic”.
The first candle we light in the Advent Wreath will be in honor of Mary, and the light that her faith brought into the world.