My favorite passage in the whole Bible is the Magnificat, where Mary proclaims early in her pregnancy:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has had regard for the humble state of His bond-servant;
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”
This reminds me of the promises that God makes to us, and our connections to our ancestors and the promises that God made to them. No matter how small or insignificant we may feel at any given time, God can do great things with our lives.
I’m inspired by the example of Mary making choices in a time when women had very few choices in front of them. In those days, a woman who was accused of having sex outside of wedlock risked a public and shameful death. And yet she followed her own conscience and what God asked of her and made a difficult choice to start her family with the support of people who loved her, including her future husband Joseph who believed her.
Just as Mary’s loved ones supported and trusted her, we must trust people to make their own choices about starting a family, even when it’s difficult. In the Christmas story, we exalt a woman who trusted her own conscience to make the best decision she could. Over two thousand years later, we must trust our neighbors. Our systems and laws must do the same.
Right now, our democracy is a system under stress which seems unprecedented but, sadly, we’ve been here before. We’ve had a civil war and many other moments when our nation felt fractured. In this moment when we as Americans feel very disconnected and divided from one another, the Christmas season reminds us to lead with peace, to lead with hope and to lead with love and joy. Our democracy could use a refocus on peace: not simply sweeping things under the rug but the true peace which comes from justice. We need to tell the truth, listen to one another, and right the wrongs we’ve done as a nation.
Hope is deeply relevant to the current state of our democracy because we’ve been through dark times before. We can move through this dark time and become healthier and more whole as a nation. We can heal our nation and heal our democracy, especially if we act with the integrity and honesty that leads to true peace.
Right before the Magnificat, we hear the story of Mary’s visit with Elizabeth. It’s a moment filled with hope and joy of a new world made possible by the courage of two women. Today we can embody their courage. Together, we can co-create systems that honor our agency and allow us all to flourish. Together, we can build true peace, which comes from justice, by healing our nation with honesty, deep listening and righting the wrongs of our past. Together, with God, we can, and will, do great things. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we’re called to recognize the bigness, the boldness of our shared vision. We’re building something new; something the world hasn’t seen yet.
Courage and hope in God’s promise is how we make it all possible.
I’m very grateful that you are a part of Faith in Public Life. I pray that you have some of the courage of Mary, some of the hope of this season and some deep rest today. It’s easy to try to push ourselves to close out the year strong, go to all the parties and buy the perfect gifts. But my wish for all of you who’ve worked so hard this year is that you get a moment to rest and to listen to what the season is teaching us about waiting, in hope, for the new year and new adventures to come.
Jeanné Lewis (she/her)
Interim CEO, Faith in Public Life