If, like me, you've attended church for decades, you've probably heard countless times the stories of Elizabeth (mother of John the Baptist) and Mary (mother of Jesus). Last Sunday, while listening to yet another Christmas sermon hailing their exemplary obedience to God, I was struck by a new thought.
All they did (as recorded in the Gospels) was give birth to and raise children. That's all. They didn't start a non-profit, devote their lives to providing health care for the destitute, get an education, write books, travel the world, or rise to leadership positions. They lived the life that was before them--no more, no less.
Apparently, Elizabeth and Mary--a respected postmenopausal woman and a girl from nowhere--didn't even have a choice about the life-changing turn of events that were announced by angelic visitors. ("You will conceive," Gabriel informed Mary. Not, "Do you want to conceive?") The only choice they had was their attitude, and by all accounts, they jumped in with both feet, singing with glee and gratitude, as if they'd been invited to a grand adventure.
The "adventure" involved the raw, primal labor of childbirth, followed by the painstaking, seemingly incessant tasks of feeding an infant and changing diapers, the tedium of planning and providing meals for a family. This is the stuff of ordinary life, as is caring for patients in a clinic or teaching in a classroom, or whatever forms one's daily framework.
Mary's response to Gabriel reads like a morning prayer: "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."