What was it like for Mary to realize that she was bringing God into the world? Did she realize it all at once, right away? Or did it dawn on her slowly, over time? Did she need confirmation from someone else that this was really real? When her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, said,
“And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”(Luke 1:43-45)
Did it become real to her then? I just wonder, what it was like for Mary, to realize that God was in her, and would be doing great things through her, big impossible things that could not be done without her.
I want you to hold on to that, for a minute, as we talk about things today. What would it be like for Mary, to realize that she was the bearer of God? This term “bearer of God” or “God-bearer,” has an interesting history. Interesting is probably a stretch, here. I mean, I’m interested in it, but I’m a nerd and theology is one of the areas in which I do my thing. But the term God-bearer is interesting (to me), because it got Nestorius thrown out of the church.
Nestorius is known as an ancient heretic. His namesake heresy, “Nestorianism” is one of the big heresies that popped up in antiquity and was officially quashed at the Council of Ephesus in 431CE. And I think Nestorius gets a bad rap. Let me tell you a little bit about him. Nestorius was a young monk in Antioch who developed a reputation as a preacher and got appointed the patriarch of Constantinople. And almost as soon as he got there, he ran into trouble. Constantinople was a long way from Antioch, both in terms of distance and in terms of theology. The trouble that he got into was around this term “God-bearer.” The Greek word is qeotokoß. People in Constantinople were different from the people in Antioch. They were really into devotion to Mary, and they called her the “God-bearer.” But Nestorius didn’t like this term. Nestorius didn’t like the term God-bearer because he felt like it made Mary into something she wasn’t. If you’re the one who brings forth God, then you’re in a sense the creator of God. And so Nestorius was afraid that using the term God-bearer would make people think Mary was some sort of goddess. And people were using some very God-like terminology for Mary in their sermons. And after one such sermon, Nestorius called someone out on it, they got in a big fight, they called a council, the Emperor got involved, and long story short Nestorius spent the rest of his days in exile.
I don’t think that’s really fair to him, because all Nestorius was doing is trying to protect an idea that’s been with us from the beginning. The people God works with are not superhuman. What Nestorius wanted people to understand is that Mary was no different from you and me. Mary was just a regular person who was thrust into the limelight because of the work that God chose her to do. Mary bears the image of God in the same way that we all do.
Mary wasn’t any more special than you or I could be, if the same thing had happened to us. But she was special. Mary was special because she was willing to welcome what God had given her, what God was doing through her.
Take a look at what happened when the angel announced to Mary that she was going to bear a child. She had questions, yes, and she asked them. But when she understands the news she says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary could have said a lot of things. She likely had plans for her life. She was engaged to Joseph and was probably thinking about what their future would be. That future was gone. She could have said, “I’d rather stay out of it” or “I’m not ready.” Or like Moses and Jeremiah, she might have said, “Gee, God, thanks for the offer, but this job looks like it’s really meant for someone else.” But she doesn’t say any of those things. She says, “Here am I”
Do you know what that really means? It means, “I trust you, God.” You see something in my future that I don’t see. Maybe I don’t think I’m good enough, maybe I just thought things were going in a different direction, maybe I wanted something else, but I trust you, God. And I’m willing to go with you on this journey, wherever it may lead.
Mary is special because she is willing to welcome the new future that God has given her. But to do that, Mary had to trust God, and to believe that she was good enough for God to do something through her.
And I think that’s our hang-up a lot of the time. I think a lot of the messages that we get in our consumer culture lead us to the conclusion that we’re worthless. Nobody’ll ever outright say it, but advertising is always pushing us towards the idea that we need something before we can do anything. Take the classic ad, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” It was a mouthwash commercial. Sidestepping the sexist notion that the goal in life is to find a husband, the ad doesn’t suggest that you’re worthless, just that you’re not quite enough. If only I had mouthwash, then I’d have what I want. That’s what every ad tells us. I just need this one thing, and then I could really be somebody. If only I had this, if only I could do this, if only our family looked more like that one. If only becomes a refrain for why we can’t, why we don’t, why we won’t. It tells us that we are not enough.
But Mary doesn’t play “if only.” Mary trusts God that she is enough.
And it all comes back to what Nestorius was worried about. Because if you think of Mary as this person of superhuman power and righteousness, you will begin to think that what Mary has done is something you could never do. But all Mary did, was to trust God and believe that she was enough. And what Mary has done is something all of us can do. All of us can welcome God’s plan into our lives.
And in that way, all of us are God-bearers too. Abide in me, as I abide in you,” Jesus told his disciples at the last supper. Christ dwells in us, maybe not in exactly the same way that Christ dwelled in Mary, but Mary should be our example as to how we bear Christ into the world. Through our actions, through our faith, but more than anything else, through our willingness to trust that God knows what God is doing, we have the ability to bring Christ’s presence in the world. To be Christ’s presence in the world. We are bearers of God. Each of us, has the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and each of us has been blessed to bring Christ into the world.
There is something Godly about you. Something holy within you. Some calling to do, some strength or some talent that only you have, and if you are willing to trust God enough to let that be revealed in you.
What will you do, when you realize that you are a bearer of God?