Advent Reflection 1: Annunciation
Miryam of Nazareth, a small town in southern Galilee, came from a place where the majority of people were hard working peasants working under the wealthy governing rulers, administrators, military, merchants and priests who made up 10% of the population.
Miryam’s Yes (Luke 1:26-38)
In the stillness Miryam reached out.
Mind alive, she reached out.
Memory reflecting, she reached out.
Inviting her God to inspire.
From Miryam of Nazareth: Woman of Strength & Wisdom by Ann Johnson
“Behold, I am the servant of God; let it be with me according to your word.”
Miryam of Nazareth, a small town in southern Galilee, came from a place where the majority of people were hard working peasants working under the wealthy governing rulers, administrators, military, merchants and priests who made up 10% of the population. The oppressed 80% were thus also tripled taxed. They had to pay tithes to support the temple and priesthood in Jerusalem, tribute to the Roman Emperor and taxes to the local Jewish client king through whom Rome ruled. This is the world Miryam was born into, a world still recovering from the vivid memories of the failed revolution against Herod and the Romans, still recovering from the destruction of the villages and enslavement of friends and family. Like today this young woman from Palestine lived under a military occupation.
When the angel Gabriel found her, according to the Greek Orthodox church, she was at the well not sitting reading a book by candlelight. She was a young soon to be married woman able to discern God’s call. Her “Yes” to this call is, as the writer Kathleen Norris says, a “Yes” based on a prayerful listening life. She was not forced to bear the Messiah instead she asserted humbly “Let it be according to your word.” Her humility is in daring to accept the monumental undertaking to partner with her God in co-creating a new world.
This is our task too. She is, as theologian Elizabeth Johnson says, the 1st disciple, the first Christian because she heard the good word, then good news of Jesus’ identity as God’s son, and accepted it. Hearing the divine word of God and keeping it, she actively partnered with God in the divine call to repair and mend the world. Her faith made possible God’s entrance into history to be Emmanuel. The one who invited Miryam into partnership also invites all of us to give birth to new life.
Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Christian is one of those women, who like Mary stepped out in faith. She is a Quaker who lives in Ramallah where she has served for many years as clerk of the Friends Meeting there. In addition she has served on many ecumenical committees and councils in the Middle East and throughout the world including the Council of Conscience, a multi-faith, multi-national group connected to the Charter of Compassion. Here how she describes her “Yes,” her calling to nonviolence and peacemaking in her book Occupied With Nonviolence:
“My neighbors and even my family often ask me why I keep working for peace and justice against seemingly hopeless odds. The only thing I can say is that this is my faith, a practical everyday faith. One of the posters in our home in Ramallah reads, “True Godliness doesn’t turn people out of this world but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it.” How true these words are to me, for I learned through my life and through spiritual struggle that my faith is a practical faith. It is what helps me endure year to year. It is what helps me to try and love all women and men, even those who violate my dignity and human worth. It is such a challenge, and it is my lifelong work…Each of us finds ourselves engaged in the work for peace and justice because something is sacred to us—so sacred that it means more than convenience or comfort. It might be God, or the Spirit, or the sacredness of life or belief in freedom. Whatever it is, it can nurture us.”
Miryam, you whose “Yes” opened the door to our salvation,
show us how we can say “Yes” without reservation,
teach us how to wait as we hang in the balance of the past and the possible,
help us to say “Yes” to a life graced by the Spirit—
a life dangerous to both complacency and despair.
Miryam and all your sisters, open us up so we too can reach out and affirm new life.
* Global Ministries of the United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) supported Jean by providing accompaniment and support for her book, Occupied With Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks. Global missionary Marla Schrader worked with Jean for ten years and helped her edit her manuscript for publication.