Monday, December 21, 2009

Mary and Minute Rice

By Jonalyn Grace Fincher

I've been identifying with Mary lately, pregnant with a firstborn son, experiencing the inconvenience of travel in my 7th month.

In modern terms Mary's journey to Bethlehem would be tantamount to my husband and I flying stand-by to Alaska for tax registration a week before my due date. The kicker-- there's no room in any inn, so I’d have to give birth in the janitor closet of a Motel Six.

If that was what God had in store I'd wonder, "Couldn't you, the Maker of all things, orchestrate the arrival of your Son a little more majestically?"

Mary got one dream from the angel Gabriel explaining this Holy-Spirit-produced baby in her body. Joseph got at least three dreams, explaining where to move, when to leave, how to find safety and what God was up to. I think I would have felt a little gypped, but Mary didn't.

How did she do it?

How did Mary have the strength to bear the Son of God and the serenity to respond to Gabriel's shocker of a newsflash with, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me according to your word"? (Luke 1:38).

Mary was not just a teenage woman pregnant outside of marriage. She was a Jewish woman who knew the God of Israel.

Mary’s serenity came from a relationship few of us tap today.

Around Christmas time, I notice women running around with lists of things to do. Minute Rice put together an advertisement in 2008 that summed up the way we often feel around the holidays. Surrounding a package of Minute Rice with a Santa Hat are hundreds of things we try to get done.

get decorations out of the attic
write annual holiday letter and try to sounds modest while bragging about the kids
drop off food at church
hang candy canes
try not to eat candy canes
clean house
keep tinsel away from cat
shop online during lunch hour
drive around and look at lights
plan menu for Christmas Eve
have patience when visiting in-laws
read "Night Before Christmas" out loud
attend candlelight service with family
remember reason for the season
pray for peace on earth.

That last item on the list makes me stop and wonder, "How can you pray for peace when peace is an afterthought?”

Can I recommend another to-do list, one that I imagine Mary relied on as she awaited the birth of Immanuel?

Micah 6:8
"He has shown all you people what is good. What does the LORD require of you?
To act justly
to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."

What would it look like if we acted with justice, loved mercy and walked humbly with our God this Christmas? Would there be more peace on earth?

Let me unpack the first item.

Even though I'm a fan of the work for justice and social equality for others, one way I see women refusing to act justly is in the manner in which we make time for ourselves. Women are perhaps the worst at taking a day off, of honoring the Jewish law of the Sabbath. We do not treat ourselves with justice.

When Jesus says, "Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:33), we don’t know what he means. How can we love ourselves? There’s just no time, have you seen how much we have to get done today?!

We do not let God love us one day of the week so we can love others the other six.

I don't think Mary had this problem. If Mary had a Minute Rice list, she scrapped it so she could make time to process the reality that the Son of God was going to enter her life.

As soon as Mary found out she was pregnant, she took a retreat. Not for a weekend or even a week, but for three months. She spent this time with her cousin Elizabeth. I'm sure they cried and talked and grieved and laughed together. I imagine Mary did a lot of processing.

One thing is certain, after her time away, resting and thinking, Mary sings a song that has gone down in history as Mary's Magnificat--a testimony to Mary's experience with the God of Israel (read it in Luke 1:46-55). It seems likely to me that Mary's time of rest provided the margin for something like the Magnificant to bubble out of her.

If we want the serenity Mary had, we must begin to take time to do justice to ourselves by accepting God's gift of rest.

Open the present marked out for you to relax. Like Mary, let the God of Israel bring you peace on this earth. Invite him in with this simple prayer at the beginning of your day off, “Jesus, I receive your peace.”

He does a better job than Minute Rice!

Jonalyn Grace Fincher is a female apologist and co-founder of Soulation (, a non-profit dedicated to helping others become more appropriately human. From their home in the Rocky Mountains, she and her husband, Dale, work as a national speaking/writing team. Jonalyn’s first book, Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home (Zondervan, 2007) uses her M.A. in Philosophy (Talbot School of Theology) as well as her degrees in English and History (University of Virginia) to delve into the woman’s soul. She is joining forces with her husband for their second book Coffee Shop Conversations: Making the Most of Spiritual Small Talk (Zondervan, 2010) on how to share your faith in a post-Christian culture. For Jonalyn’s ongoing musings visit her blog at After long days behind her laptop Jonalyn loves snowshoeing with her husband or curling up with her three corgis and watching re-runs of The Office.

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