Devotion for December 5th

Luke 1:26-38

Dr. Christine J. Hong

The story of the annunciation has always held dissonance for me. After all, the angel’s exclamation that Mary should not be afraid is terribly unrealistic. How could Mary not have felt fear when confronted with a celestial being? How could she avoid feeling afraid after hearing the angel’s message about her pregnancy? Later, Mary’s son, Jesus, also felt fear at Gethsemane when faced with betrayal and capital punishment. As she watched him suffer and die, the fear and anguish she must have felt!

As a young child, I remember whenever my brother or I were very ill I would hear my mother praying in Korean, “Jeh-gah dae-shin” (“Take me instead”). My mother bargained with God to ease her children’s pain. In my time as a chaplain and pastor to parents with sick children, sometimes with life-threatening illnesses, I have heard many parents whisper the same prayer, “Take me instead.”

What if the dissonance is what we are meant to sit with? Every day, people are faced with untold grief and pain, and the gospel, or the good news, is not enough to take that pain and fear away. Hope sounds hollow to those who are enduring the wretched parts of life. Rather than gloss over the dissonance, can we sit with Mary? Yes, the Magnificat, her song of courage, is a mark of her bravery. Still, we know—because we too are human—that courage rises despite our fear, not in its absence. Those who have suffered loss know this.

Perhaps this story and the dissonance of the angel’s command are an invitation to sit with those who are experiencing the dissonance of a world moving on despite their personal struggle—a world that says, “Cheer up! Move on!” while they are still grieving. Perhaps the dissonance invites us to accompany people moving through their pain, as Mary and Jesus accompanied one another through life events only the two of them understood. Despite the dissonance, they moved through the liminal and tender space of their lives together. In other words, God moved through the liminal and tender spaces of God’s human life with Mary, even as they were both afraid.

Read more about the Sanctified Art creative team and guest contributors who compiled this year’s devotionals.

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