December 5, 2010

Saying Yes to God with Mary

This week we’ll look at someone’s whose response to God’s call was different from Zechariah’s. The record of this meeting is in Luke 1:26-38. Six months after his visit to Zechariah, the angel Gabriel visits another resident of Israel: “a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” She is, understandably “perplexed”.

 Gabriel announces astonishing news to this teenage girl. “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus.He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

This is the fulfillment of Messiah prophesied by many prophets including Jeremiah (23:5-6) “The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’”

Mary is astonished and wonders, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Unlike Zechariah she doesn’t argue and accepts Gabriel’s explanation. He tells her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.”

Perhaps in Gabriel’s answer Mary hears an echo of Isaiah’s words, “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)

A young girl in Nazareth when confronted with the astonishing and life changing news, responds “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Zechariah argued that logically he and his wife were too old. Mary could have refused to believe and complained that she didn’t want to be shamed by an unexpected pregnancy. Instead, Mary was able to ‘Say Yes’ because she didn’t stop to contemplate the ramifications and practicalities of Gabriel’s announcement.

We can miss seeing and hearing God by being too mature. An open, child-like heart that trusts that “nothing is impossible with God” easily accepts God’s call. How often do we try to second guess God and map out the way forward when we would be better off just stepping out in faith like Mary? Mary lived her simple faith because she knew what Michael Card meant in his song By Faith. Card recites some of the deeds of our spiritual ancestors from Hebrews 11 and than sings,

Faith understands and offers
It assures and calms our fears
It can shut the mouths of lions
And make sense of scars and tears
We persevere in hope
And with conscience clean and clear
We walk this fallen wilderness
With Salvation’s Pioneers…

Looking to God for guidance and enfolding ourselves in the “Faith that understands and offers…and makes sense of scars and tears” means we can say ‘Yes’ like our spiritual ancestors listed by Paul in Hebrews Chapter 11 (and by Card in his song). Paul reminds the Hebrew Christians, “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely…looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

It is when we look to Jesus “pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” we can be like Mary in our response to God’s call on our life even if it means facing lions or fire. We become, as Card sings, “sure of what we hope for, seeing what is yet unseen…new life where none had been” we find “hope for the comfortless [by] the faith that [we] possess.”

Did you start an Advent Box? I was a little surprised by some of the things that came to mind when thinking about God and my response to God last week. The exercise did get me thinking about some of the messages I consciously or subconsciously give myself about God.

This week, if you are doing the box, add some things that keep you from “looking to Jesus.” Put in some of the fears, scars, and tears, things which prevent you from seeing the cloud of witnesses so you can, as Card says,

“fix your eyes on the Champion….
Understanding that He cheers you on…
So hold on and do not grow weary of the faith that you profess…”

If you need a time of quiet meditation as you prepare to think about what to put in the box, listen to Michael Card’s rendition of the song Immanuel.
Next week we will see what Joseph's response was when God asked him to 'say Yes' to the incredible events unfolding. See you then.

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