During this six-week blog-study we’ll be unpacking the story of the Nativity with reference to scripture (the Gospel of Luke) and snippets from Mary, My Love by Cynthia Davis. We’ll consider how we accept God’s call to ministry. Exploring the people most closely impacted by the birth of Christ and their response to God’s call will offer insights into our own ministry and deepen your Advent adventure this year. You do not have to have read the book to enjoy the blog. If you do want to order a copy, email me.
What is the ‘call’ of God? How do we hear it? My definition is that Call is when my woundedness (and we are all wounded in some way) meets God’s healing and I feel the need to share that healing with others so that God is glorified. Call is our response to the wrongs or wounds in our lives. You might think of big organizations like MADD or AA that came from one person’s search for healing and answers to the wounds in their lives. Answering God’s call doesn’t have to be big and grand, though. My first book It is I, Joseph was born of the healing of my wounds of betrayal and I saw that in writing I could share God’s love.
The group Celtic Woman has a song titled, “The Call” that says, when we open our arms and accept the call, “you will find the answer…to the call”. The call of God is the answer to our wounded hearts which respond to the whisper of God. (*words at the end of the blog or watch them.
Sometimes we hear the call in the innocent response of a child to need or wrong in the world, too. It could be like the little girl who got an idea to do a read-a-thon to raise money for an orphanage. Today we meet Mary of Nazareth, a young girl, who heard her call through the voice of an angel. The first ‘character’ we meet in the drama is the angel Gabriel who was “sent by God…to a virgin…[whose] name was Mary.” Most scholars agree that Mary was likely a young teen at the time, probably no more than 14. Men, however, did not usually marry until they were older and established in their work so Joseph was probably several years older. Some traditions say he was a widower. In my book, he is not an aged gray-beard, but is several years older than his betrothed bride. He does love her though as we see in this scene from Mary, My Love soon after the betrothal when Mary stops at the carpenter shop.
Bravely, I laid my rough hand over hers where it rested on the wood. She did not pull away and I was thrilled. Her other hand traced the whorls in the wood.
“It has a lovely grain.”
“I chose this piece especially for that design.”
Mary seemed oblivious to my pleasure at her presence. I swallowed convulsively when the soft hand under mine turned over and small fingers twined with mine. When she looked up her dark eyes were serious.
“Joseph, I am a lucky girl. I will try to make you a good wife,” she promised.
“I know you will.”
The hoarseness in my voice came from the lump of emotion that threatened to choke me. Suddenly not trusting myself, I stepped back from the loving look in Mary’s eyes. My hands shook with longing. The young woman tilted her head as if confused. Something in my demeanor reassured her and a tender smile appeared.
“You will make a good husband. God brought us together.”
Before I could move, my betrothed bridged the distance between us. Stretching up she placed a soft kiss on my cheek and hurried out.
“I will come back tomorrow,” she called over her shoulder.
Jacob found me energetically sanding the tabletop.
“A year is a long time,” he noted.
I pretended to be engrossed in creating a satin smooth finish. A friendly hand rested on my shoulder.
“Mary is a jewel worth waiting for. Like me you have waited for the one woman who trapped your heart. A pleasant torment it is, too.”
I heard the amusement in my father’s tone and turned abruptly to face him.
“A year is too long,” I said, my voice ragged.
“Keep busy,” he counseled. “Time will pass more quickly.” (From Mary, My Love, (c) Cynthia Davis 2010)
By our standards a teenage girl is not a likely or logical choice to be the mother of the promised Messiah. We would think that someone mature in their religious life or from a royal or priestly family or rich, etc. would be a better choice than a young girl from a relatively small town far from the Holy City of Jerusalem. God doesn’t measure our worth in such ways, though.
Consider some of the heroes and heroines of the Bible. Moses, an exile and murderer, was sent back to the country he fled from. Ruth was a foreigner, as was Rahab, yet both are important links in the lineage of King David and of Jesus. Few of the prophets were rich or famous or priestly, yet their words were recorded rather than those of kings and priests. David was the youngest son of Jesse, yet he was anointed as king.
The prophet/priest Samuel makes the mistake of judging by appearances when he comes to Jesse’s home to anoint a successor for King Saul. “He looked on Eliab and thought, ‘Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.’ But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’” (I Samuel 16:6-7)
God sends Gabriel to Mary in Nazareth of Galilee. We don’t know what she was doing, when “he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’” Mary does not seem to be astonished at the appearance of the angel. Instead she wonders what he means by his greeting! His next words are even more astounding. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, 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.” (Luke 1:28-33)
Stop for a minute and try to remember yourself at 13 or 14. How would you have responded to an angelic visitor? Perhaps it is not so surprising that God chose a young girl. Children often are more open to the holy things around them. They see the beauty in a dandelion and the joy of a rainstorm. Young people are more open to believing that angels can appear and offer astonishing opportunities.
Mary does question her visitor who explains, “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. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:35-38)
The young girl is open to the call of God, who seems to challenge her with something unbelievable. Her response is joy and self-giving. Like Isaiah (6:8) she responds “Here I am, send me.” She was willing to open her heart and respond to the call of God to be mother of Messiah. She teaches us that when we “Open your arms You will find the answer When you answer to the Call.”
Mary responds “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” She is willing to embrace all that God has for her even though she does not really comprehend how much that will change her life. As the Celtic Woman song says, sometimes the call is your “wounded heart calling” or it can be “in desire or in the love we fear.” Often “when we have no dance to dance…or… voice to sing then the call is calling strong.” Finding the call of God will make you whole.
What is your brokenness that you can offer to God? What inspires you? What is your passion? What is your gift? What whisper do you hear?
Next week we will see how Joseph hears and responds to the call of God.
Lord, I offer to you my brokenness. Take it and redeem it with your call. Only in answering and living into your will, your call on my life can I be fully whole and fully human and fully yours. Amen.
*Sometimes in this life we hear
Calling from somewhere
Sometimes it is loud and clear
Sometimes it's so softly there
Sometimes it is in the sea
Sometimes in the sky
Sometimes it's in you and me
Sometimes it's a cry
Open your heart I am calling you
Right from the very start
Your wounded heart was calling, too
Open your arms You will find the answer
When you answer to the Call
Sometimes it is in desire
Or in the love we fear
When the call is calling us
'Till the fear will disappear
When we have no dance to dance
The call is in the song
When we have no voice to sing
Then the call is calling strong
Open your heart I am calling you
Right from the very start Your wounded heart was calling, too
Open your arms You will find the answer
When you answer to the Call (The Call, Celtic Woman)