The gentle touch


There is a story about Mary, that she was stitching a cloth for the tabernacle when Gabriel visited her.

Maybe. Maybe not. She could have been sweeping the floor. Or grinding corn for a meal. Those activities can also be sacred.

We are reminded of times when God has been manifest in simple household tasks.

I imagine myself in Mary’s place. I’m at the kitchen sink.

I feel a tap on the shoulder.

I turn and see something out of a 17th-century painting, a tall man with wings as big as feathered tents.

What is my reaction?

I am dreaming!  Or I’ve just lost a few marbles!

It is not surprising that Mary sounded a bit confused.

What is surprising is that her faith went to the heart of Gabriel’s extraordinary message, and she said, “Let it be done to me.”

At this time of the year, shops are filling up with gifts, glitter and pictures of Santa Claus.

But the angel Gabriel closes a gap in time.

Under the commercial frippery, we see Mary largely pregnant.

We see her taking Joseph’s hand and placing it on her swollen belly so that he can feel the baby moving.

Through a wall of flesh, the carpenter’s calloused hand touches a tiny foot that will one day lead the way.

Neither Joseph nor Mary know how big this new life will be.

They simply know love and wonder.

They have been called to something far beyond the ordinary.

So now comes the question, how do you and I answer God’s call away from the ordinary?

It probably won’t be a tap on the shoulder, but rather, a gentle touch to the heart.

I might not notice it, except it comes back.

Again and again.

It’s not some idea making words in the head, but a gentle feeling that is asking something of me.

It nudges me in a new direction that may take me out of my comfort zone.

That’s when resistance kicks in.

I go further than Mary’s “How can this be?”

I find solid reasons why I should not do this.

  1. I am too busy,
  2. I’m happy the way I am.
  3. I am not qualified.
  4. People will think I’m mad.
  5. I am bound to fail.

But the invitation keeps coming.

Eventually, I weigh my objections against the feeling of call.

There is no life in my excuses. They are heavy and dead.

The gentle movement in the heart, however, has life and love.

You too, will know this. It’s how God works in us.

So at this point, we say with Mary, “Let it be done to me.”

We should have said, “Yes!”

That’s when we hear angel song in the Santa parade.

Christmas trees and decorations become symbols of new life in us and in the world.

All that tinsel appears simply as indicator of Mystery.

The truth is there beyond the plastic holly and the large man in a red suit.

It’s with the schoolgirl who plays ‘Good King Wencelas’ on her recorder.

Everything about the season is a reminder of the gentle touch we know as call.

Although call comes in many ways, it always has a connection with Mary and the angel Gabriel.

This is what Christmas is about.

Man and woman alike, we are asked to become pregnant with God.

And to give birth to Christ in the world.

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.


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