Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Will you do me a favor? How many times has someone asked you to do them a favor and before they even tell you what they want you to do you say yes? Probably not too often. Usually, we want to know what it is that they want us to do. If we know the person really well, we may say a tentative and shaky….yes – maybe. But if we don’t know them well, we wait for more information. We need to know if it’s something we can do. Are we able to do it? Is it possible? So we want the details. We need the specifics. We don’t just jump right in and say yes without even knowing what we’re getting ourselves into.
But that’s not the case for Mary. In Luke’s gospel today we hear that the angel Gabriel came to Mary greeting her not by her name, but “favored one.” In other words, she had already been chosen to do God a great big favor. The angel was just waiting for Mary to say yes. God was waiting for Mary to say yes. “But she was much perplexed” by the angel’s strange words and “pondered what sore of greeting this might be.” Mary was trying to figure out what on earth was happening. What did the angel want? And the words “do not be afraid” were probably not any more comforting to Mary than they would be to us today. When someone says “don’t be afraid” it often signals that something they are about to reveal will cause us to be afraid. It means something is about to happen.
Something was about to happen to Mary. She – a young teenage girl between 13 and 14 years of age – was chosen by God to be the instrument through which God will bring forth the savior of the world. Mary was chosen not because she was the most important person in the village, not because she was the most educated person, not because she was the most religious, but because God felt she was the right person for this holy vocation – the mother of the messiah. What an honor, yet Mary never signed up for this. Like most of the prophets in the Scriptures, Mary had questions and so would we. “Wait a minute,” she said to the angel, “how can this be?” It’s a reasonable question and I’m sure we don’t have the whole story. I’m sure Luke did not write down everything that Mary was thinking or feeling. It must have been overwhelming and not in a positive way.
To say yes to what God was asking of her would have been to subject herself to ridicule and scandal. A young girl engaged to be married and already pregnant? Even in today’s society that causes quite a stir. Imagine what that would mean back in the ancient middle east 2000 years ago or even in that culture today? She could be stoned to death! Accepting this task could very likely mean that Mary might die. That’s a lot to ask of a young girl. That’s a lot to ask of anyone.
But doesn’t God ask the same of us today? God has a vocation – a special task – for each and every one of us. Some of us are called to be parents, teachers, factory workers, farmers, office workers, and dozens of other kinds of jobs. God uses our vocations as a means to proclaim God’s glory. God equips us with the skills needed to do what we are called to do. Through our baptism God has called us to be disciples of Christ and to follow in His footsteps, to continue the ministry Jesus began, and to bring about the kingdom of God here on earth. We don’t have all the facts. We don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the things God asks of us are difficult and seem impossible. Love our neighbors? Love the people who may not love us back? Forgive those who hurt us? Put God before everything and everyone else in our lives? Trust God even when it feels like we are walking in the dark? Trust God even when we don’t know how things are going to turn out? Wait for the Holy Spirit to guide us where we need to go rather than go in our own direction?
Saying yes to God can be hard. Jonah tried to run away from what God wanted him to do, but eventually Jonah couldn’t escape. Moses tried to say send someone else because he didn’t feel he could speak well enough. David was just a boy when God called him to be a king. And Mary was just a young girl when God said you are the one I want. Yet God doesn’t force anyone. God too waits.
In this season of Advent as we await for the birth of the Christ child. As we await for the coming of Christ again we wait sometimes with doubts. We wait with questions. We wait not knowing all the answers. We wait wondering how it is that God calls us to be disciples, and prophets, and messengers of the gospel. We wait wondering how God can use simple ordinary people like us. We wait wondering how in a world filled with so much darkness and pain how God can use us as instruments of light. And while we wait, God waits too.
God waits for our response. God waits for us to be bearers of Christ just as Mary was. God waits for us to shine Christ’s light in this world. God waits for us to build a temple for God not with our hands like David, but with our very lives. We are to be living stones that are the church. God waits for us to say yes, like Mary. She did not have all the answers but she said yes. She is a wonderful example to us of what it means to be a faithful disciple. Her yes changed the world. Her yes, put into motion God’s plan for saving all people. Through her yes, we have an amazing and wondrous story to tell and retell. This Christmas story – acted out by the children in the pageant today – is filled with stars and angels, sheep and shepherds, manger and messengers. We are part of that story. We are called to be messengers today. We are called to bring forth glad tidings of great joy. We are part of a story that began with one young girl saying yes. Imagine what our yes, our collective yes to what God asks of us could do! “For nothing will be impossible with God!” Say yes! Amen!