A group at our church is studying the book Christmas is not Your Birthday by Rev. Mike Slaughter. As we studied the chapter on Scandalous Love yesterday, Slaughter pointed out that Mary would have been criticized and ostracized by her community. But when she traveled to visit with her cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s first words to her are “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:42). Elizabeth speaks words of encouragement to her young cousin, words that Mary desperately needed to hear.
Slaughter asks, “How many miracles are aborted because of put-downs, sarcasm, and negativity?” As we considered that question in our study, we wondered aloud how we as the church often respond when a member or a group comes enthusiastically with a new idea, a radical “what if we . . .” or a dream for something different. Are our church’s administrative structures the places where dreams go to die, or do we believe that God still acts through ordinary lay people? Do we believe in each other, that God lives in each one of us and that God can unleash God’s power in any one of us at any time? Or do we only believe in what we can actually see, which is often a shortage of money or people to support what the Spirit is urging us toward?
Slaughter observes that the example of Mary can be the example for any of us, that God can and does work God’s miracles through ordinary people who are open to hear God’s word for them and who will act on it. I am challenged to discern when I am called to be the place of gestation for God’s miracle, as Mary was, and when I am called to be Elizabeth, the encourager of the miracle in another. Or maybe I am called to be the midwife, who helps another birth the miracle that is in them. To be any of these requires that I pay attention, accept my role-whichever one it is, and believe that God is alive and at work in every one of us, even the unlikeliest of folks. How would our churches look if each of us did this? They would be scandalous places indeed, for they would be aflame with God’s Spirit!