Luke 1:26-55 – Puddleglum the Marshwiggle and the Advent of Mary

It is difficult for me to know what to say about Mary: First, I grew up very protestant, and we never really talked much about Mary. Second, the whole thing of pregnancy is somewhat outside of my experience. I do know that Advent was very real for Mary. The passage that we read was that of an angel telling her about the child she was carrying. I cannot imagine advent being more real and immediate than it was for her.

One thing that I do know is that Mary was very brave. She was promised to be married; and her fiance knew that the child was not his. By accepting what the Angel Gabriel said to her, she was accepting real danger. When a girl, engaged to be married, was pregnant, by somebody else, the man has every right to have her stoned. It would take an act of God to convince Joseph not to break off the engagement. Mary had to accept becoming a single mom, or, more likely, for a mob of people to throw rocks at her, without stopping until she was dead.  I would be terrified, but Mary praises God for this blessing.

One thing about God’s calling in scripture is that God never seems to promise that the person being given a word (or in Mary’s case the Word) that he or she will be O.K. You might remember, in the case of Isaiah, God was pretty clear that he wouldn’t live long enough to see people listening to his prophecies. Jesus told his disciples that they could expect persecution. When God calls people, there are no promises, only a call to be obedient.

The way I connect with this knowledge is through the C.S. Lewis children’s book The Silver Chair. This is the 4th of the Narnia stories, and In this story, there is this character named Puddleglum, the Marsh Wiggle. Aslan the lion gives instructions for the children to follow; four signs that will bring them where they are supposed to go and tell them what to do when they get there — they are to do what they are asked to do when somebody makes a request in the name of Aslan. Pudleglum offers to help them. Now, at first it seems like Puddleglum isn’t going to be much help, because he’s so incredibly pessimistic. He seems to expect unpleasantness and death, even from the ordinary.
When they went on the adventure, things did turn out unpleasant. They faced terrible weather which kept them from noticing an important sign. They accepted an invitation to dinner from a city of giants, not realizing that they were on the menu — but they escape underground into a greater danger; They find themselves underground, captured by the Green Lady, a sorceress who rules the underworld. She enchanted the children, and through enchantment convinced them that there was no sun, no such thing as lions, no stars, no over-world; that they made everything up. Puddleglum was the only one who managed to keep his head and he rejected that Narnia was made up saying:

We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the playworld. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia

Now, they had made friends with a young knight who lived in the underworld. He told them that for an hour each day, he is under some sort of spell that renders him violently insane. During that hour, he is to be tied to the silver chair. He asks for company during this hour, but also warns the children not to loose his bonds for anything — because if they do, he will surely kill them in his madness.

The knight does go crazy — he begs, he fights, and he threatens to kill them all. He strains the bonds to the point that the children fear he might break free; and they are sure that if he breaks free that they will all die. They were warned, so they hold back and watch and wait. Finally, he begs them to release him in Aslan’s name. This kids recognize what Aslan asked them to do — but, they are not ready to believe; they know that they cannot expect to survive the encounter. Again, the Marshwiggle is clear: Obedience is loosing the violent crazy knight. Puddleglum lets them know that he fully expects that they all will be slaughtered, but it does not matter because this is what obedience looks like. Aslan never promised that things would go well — he only gave instructions for them to follow.

For me, this is the picture of faith and courage: to trust and obey or to do what is right even when it has negative consequences. When Mary answered the Angel, saying “let it be as you said:” she surely had some idea what the consequences of obedience might be. Gabriel never promised to make everything OK with Joseph. Even though everything was made OK with Joseph, people still talked: People talked enough that people remembered that Jesus was of unknown paternity: when somebody says to Jesus “I know who my father is”, that person is speaking about the scandal behind his birth.

The faith of Mary is the same as the faith of the prophets, and the faith of Puddleglum. The faith of Mary is a faith that says: “let it be as you say,” even though obedience has consequences.  It if the faith to obey, even when obedience is punished instead of rewarded.

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