An Advent Reflection for those experiencing redundancy.
By Catherine Reynolds, FWW Associate Chaplain, Redditch
Luke 1:26-35, 38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you."
But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.
Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
In thinking about Mary, both in this passage from Luke's gospel and slightly later in the words of the Magnificat, I find myself wondering if the joy and optimism which characterise these two passages would have been Mary's authentic reaction to the news that she was pregnant. Verse 29 is easily passed over but it is, I think, significant, for it tells us that ‘Mary was much perplexed by his (the angel, Gabriel's) words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.' This suggests to me that Mary's initial reaction was (not unlike many women who have experienced news of an unplanned pregnancy) shock, denial, fear, anxiety.
This caused me to reflect on how any one of us receives, responds to, deals with, what happens to us.
There are, I think, ‘fine lines' in the gospels; occasions when things could have turned out differently if people had responded differently. What takes place is not necessarily ‘planned' or inevitable; events could have taken a different course. This, it seems to me, applies as much to the passion narratives as to the birth narratives. Events could have turned out differently if people had responded differently.
For those who now receive notice of redundancy, how do they respond, react, to the news? It requires, I believe, an effort of will to respond creatively. The news could be for their breaking or their making; could lead to depression and despair or cause them to rise up and out of a hard place.
The Anglican author and monk, H.A. Williams, wrote*: ‘The conversion of all things to the service of goodness is what redemption means.'
For me, this suggests taking what happens, good and bad alike, and responding to it creatively. By doing so, we in some way reflect, share, cooperate with, the redeeming activity of God.
To conclude, a poem by the writer, Ann Lewin*:
Not the last word
It feels as though all that I've given
Is being thrown back in my teeth.
Those years of effort, care and dedication
Evaluated in that one chill word,
But though they have decided
They can do without me,
I do not accept the label, failure.
My value does not lie in cost-effectiveness
But in experience, skills, talents;
I am me.
I'm not redundant, I'm available.
I hope to God that's true.
Right now I feel as though
I'm at the crucifixion,
Crying in agony
Why have you let me down?
There were no guarantees then,
Were there, that there would be
The True Wilderness, H.A. Williams (Morehouse Publishing, 1994)
Watching the Kingfisher, Ann Lewin (Inspire, 2004)