This short essay is taken from the book, The Incarnation and the Exultation: An Advent Devotional. This devotional reflects on the scriptures of incarnation and exaltation in order to take you on a journey of thoughtful self-reflection. It is meant to draw you more deeply into the mystery of Christ’s coming into the world to help you walk your own inner path toward the season of Christmas. As you celebrate the coming of Christ into your lives during Advent and spend time reflecting on the readings in this devotional, may the light and love that entered our world lead you to the cross in wonder and thanksgiving. May you find joy and discover strength as you walk this wondrous journey to Bethlehem, always holding within your heart the image of the Hill of Calvary and the hope of the Age to come when Christ will return to call his people home!
Incarnation – And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38a)
Exaltation – And a great sign appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. (Revelation 12:1-2)
One of the most wonderful truths of Christmas is that Mary said, "Yes!" to the angel’s message and trusted in God to accomplish his purposes through her. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived the Son who came to free us from sin.
There are many who reduce Mary's role in salvation to that of a holy incubator, a vessel for the Christ child and not much more. Mary, however, had a far greater role to play. She cared for Jesus as his mother, pondering his mission in her heart. She was his first and best disciple, the Queen Mother of the royal Son, the one who was “full of grace.” The angel’s words were more than a greeting; they truly signified Mary’s place in the great mystery of the incarnation. In her loving response to God's call, she honored her Son’s kingship and became an example for all humanity, a sign of what it means to experience salvation.
Luke, in his Gospel, compares Mary to the Ark of the Covenant (see Luke 1:29-56) because she carried the Son of God within the vessel of her body, going to the hill country in Judea like the Ark in ancient times. There, John the Baptist leapt in his mother’s womb in the presence of the Lord as David danced before the presence of God in the Ark. Like the Blessed Virgin, Christians become vessels where God chooses to dwell. As Christ came to the earth in the womb of Mary, he also comes into each heart that believes. Our souls are mangers where the Christ child may dwell, and throne rooms where we may surrender our lives to his holy will.
Through the incarnation the Church was born and continues to groan inwardly as she awaits her transformation at the coming of Christ on the Last Day. Mary is the new Eve, reversing the first Eve’s disobedience through her humble submission to the Father’s call. Her offspring has crushed the head of the serpent and brought us redemption. Because she said, "Yes!" to God’s call to bear the King of kings, we too can open our hearts to allow Jesus to enter into our lives.
Prayer: Father, thank you for the Virgin and the grace that enabled her to say “Let it be!” in answer to your holy call. May her unique role as mother of Jesus lead me to share with the world the beautiful reality that Jesus was born of a woman, born under the law, to deliver us from all our sorrow and our sin…Amen!
Blessed virgin now surrenders,
“Let it be!” her answer true.
Bearing now the Lord of heaven,
Mother and disciple too.