mary-hiding-behindI’ll admit something to you that makes me sound kind of like a female American Scrooge. As I left the house last night to go to Todd’s Christmas party at work, the 24-year-old man who lives in my basement shouted out, “Bye, Mom! Have fun at Introvert Hell!”

Yeah, Ben knows me. The idea of playing games with a room full of strangers sounds like deep dark Hades to me. But we went anyway, and I’m still here to tell the tale. Turns out I found a few folks I sort of know, left the games to the extroverts, and actually had a few pleasant chats with nice people. We came, we talked, we ate, and then we skedaddled.

Whew. I’m glad that’s over.

There is one game, however, that I’ve been thinking about since Sunday.

Something a child said brought it all back to me.

In Sunday school, we’re savoring the Christmas story, biting off bits and pieces each week, chewing them slowly, tasting and relishing every little hint of flavor. This past Sunday we focused on the angels telling the shepherds the good news. At the end of the story, the teacher asked, “I wonder where you are in this story. I wonder what message God has for you.”

A child said, “I’m hiding behind Mary.” And to the message question, she/he responded, “Always pray to God.”

I LOVE this image, this twenty-first century child inserting herself in the nativity scene, hiding behind Mary, crouched in among the animals, smelling the hay and watching from the shadows.

Could I hide there too?

Want to join us? It could be like Sardines! Did you ever play Sardines as a child? It’s a game of reverse hide and seek. One person hides and everyone else looks for them. And when you find the hider, you must summon the self-restraint not to yell out or fall over dead, but to climb into their hidey-hole and keep yourself from laughing.

Little girl me might have hated most games, but this one was thrilling! To wonder if at any moment someone was going to slide open the closet door and discover me! And then to see the thrill on their faces as they did! To feel hot breath on the back of my neck as we huddled in the dark, trying not to crack up, trying not to breathe as our group got bigger and bigger until we were pressed into every corner of a closet. To breathe in the wool of coats, heads crammed under hangers of shirts, smelling the mothballs or boot leather, wondering every second when the door would open…

I wonder what Mary thought about discovery. I see her in the darkness among the animals, always praying to God, and I’m amazed at her bravery. What did God had in store for her life? In store for the life of the baby she birthed?

I wonder if I can be as brave as I wait in my darkness. Can I hide behind her and absorb some of her courage? The courage and confidence in the God she sang about to Elizabeth?

His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now. Luke 1:50-55

I wonder if we all can? What awaits us in 2017? What awaits us in the next twenty years? How will the kingdom of God continue coming into our world? Will we have the courage to join in? Will we even be clued in enough to know where we can offer ourselves for God’s use?

Whenever the door to the future slides open, (tonight, tomorrow, thirty years from now or in the next five minutes,) I hope I will be ready to say YES with Mary’s courage- and God’s holy delight.

Here’s wishing you joy as we spend our days in the best game ever: sliding open the door in the discovery of God.