This reading from Luke is one of my favorites. If you come into my office, you would no doubt discover that I have a love for Mary. Part of my love for her is grounded in the fact that she serves as my role-model for saying yes to God.
Throughout our Jewish-Christian heritage there have been many women who have said yes to God. While she may have laughed at the announcement that she would bear children, Sarah said yes to a God she really didn't know or understand. Leah & Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth all said yes to following God. These women, like most of us, were flawed and imperfect. But they said yes to where and how God was calling them. And so it is within this heritage that we also encounter Mary saying yes.
In today’s Gospel reading, we have the story of the Annunciation…or the good news to Mary. In the Annunciation the angel Gabriel brings Mary the message that she will bear Jesus--Emmanuel--God with us. And according to Luke, Mary doesn't respond right away; she is perplexed, she ponders, and she questions. She isn't passively obedient to God, but instead questions "how can this be?". She models for us that it's okay to ask God questions and to wonder about how the mystery of God works. Like all of us, she's trying to rationalize her experience. And Gabriel responds "nothing is impossible with God". Thank goodness! The implications of this good news are bigger than they initially appear. So let's think about this for a minute: nothing is impossible with God. That means that with God, we can be forgiven of our sins. With God we can be healed, and then go out and work for the healing of others and the world. With God we can be renewed, and then help others to be renewed. While Mary may not have been thinking of all these possibilities, it seems that she did ponder this message of Gabriel, and that it helped her to say "yes". Her humble response of "let it be" models for us that making the decision to step out in faith is okay. She gives us an example of not having all the answers up front, but rather trusting that God will guide us on the path.
Maybe it was because Mary was so ordinary, so unpretentious, so "every day" that God chose her...she had nothing to offer but herself. And this too makes her a model for us. To be disciples, evangelists, God-bearers to the world, we only have to offer ourselves.
And when we offer ourselves, it means that like Mary, we shouldn't focus on how great and wonderful we are, but rather how great and wonderful God is. We don't rejoice in ourselves, but we rejoice in the goodness of God.
I think there are two messages we're suppose to take away from this reading in preparation for Christmas. One is that it's okay to ask and ponder and wonder. God will meet us in our confusion, put an end to our fears, and make things new. And while God may guide us on a course that is unexpected, it will be filled with grace. The second is that saying "yes" to God is about having love, courage and mindful willingness. We can choose to say "no", but we might miss out on something extraordinary.
So as we enter into our these final days of watching, waiting, preparing and praying, consider the times when you've said "yes" to God, and reflect on being a God-bearer to others. Are you telling them the good news and rejoicing?
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.