The Choice is Ours
Several years ago, Fredrick Buechner (BEEK-ner) wrote a book called Peculiar Treasures... and in the book, he “fleshes out” some of the more interesting characters of the Bible. And... of Mary... the mother of Jesus, Buechner wrote:
“[Mary] struck the angel Gabriel as hardly old enough to have a child at all, let alone this child, but he’d been entrusted with a message to give her... and he gave it. He told her what the child was to be named, and who he was to be, and something about the mystery that was to come upon her. ‘You mustn’t be afraid, Mary,’ he said. And as he said it, he only hoped she wouldn’t notice that beneath the great, golden wings, he himself was trembling with fear to think that the whole future of creation hung now on the answer... of a girl.”
“The whole future of creation... hung now... on the answer... of a girl.”
Can you imagine... all the angels... gathered around, looking down from Heaven, holding their breath. “What will she say? How will she respond? C’mon, Mary, say yes!”
Free will, has always been at the top of God’s priority list when it comes to interaction with us. God doesn’t force a “yes” from anyone... because if He did... we’d never be able to disobey!
Choice has always been part of God’s plan... so-much-so that God even allows us to continue in our disobedience... turning us over to our own will and ways... God lets us decide... He allows us to choose for ourselves... giving us the freedom to ignore his calling... even if our own way causes us pain... Even allowing us to hit rock bottom if necessary, if for no other reason than to give us a firm place from which to say, “Okay, God... have it your way! Your will be done.”
There’s no doubt about it... God certainly respects our freedom... not because He has to... but because He chooses to. It’s part of the story of faith that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve.
If that were not the case... God would have never had to come up with new ways to reach people... to ask them again and again to say yes – freely say yes to God.
In our Lesson tonight... all those different ways of God reaching out... culminated in a singular moment, when an angel stood before a girl... proclaiming God’s call... answering her questions... his knees knocking together, trying to keep the quiver out of his voice, as he and all the angelic host... and even God himself... waited.
Of course, we know the answer Mary gave: “I am the Lord’s servant... may it be to me as you have said.”
I am the Lord’s servant...
Hearing that simple answer caused the heavens to rejoice... and God’s plan was set in motion... a plan that would bring light into the darkness... new hope... and peace... and freedom. Mary’s simple answer changed everything!
During Advent, we’re called time and again... to prepare for the coming of the Lord... We’re called to welcome Christ... we’re called to become more and more the follower of Christ – that God expects us to be.
Through self-examination... through speaking the truth... Advent’s a time to turn away from all those things... and people... and ways of life... and behaviors... that keep us from drawing close to the God who’s always reaching out to us, whether we acknowledge that... or not.
The call of Advent... is the call to commit ourselves to being servants of God... as we offer with Mary, our own “yes”: “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Of course, Mary wasn’t the first to say these words. She’s just one in a long line of witnesses who’ve been brave enough... or grateful enough... or obedient enough to obey God’s call... People like...
Noah, who said, “I am the Lord’s servant” when God told him to build an Ark... well before there was even a single drop of rain! Or...
Abraham, who said, “I am the Lord’s servant,” when God called him to get his wife, pack his things, and go to a place he’d never seen... trusting God knew the way. Or...
Moses, who said, “I am the Lord’s servant” when God called him to go back to Egypt... and tell the Pharaoh to “Let my people go...”
There are so many others... the list could go on and on...
Mary... being one of their number... this young girl, probably barely old enough to even be a mother, pondered and questioned and wondered... and finally said the words that changed everything: “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Of course, she would give birth to the one who would make obedience... even obedience unto death, the way to life. She would give birth to the One... the Messiah... who’s name, in Hebrew (Yeshua) means “God liberates” - God brings freedom.
And the fact is... IF you and I are willing to heed God’s calling... and to follow Christ in obedience, we will find the freedom, and peace, and hope we so long for. When we stop asking, “What’s in it for me? What can I get out of it? How does this benefit me??” and we choose to obey, we always find what we’re looking for.
Because true peace and hope is found by heeding God’s call on our lives... by choosing to obey, we take our place along side Noah and Abraham and Moses... and Mary... and even Jesus... a long line of faithful people who’ve chosen to answer God’s call.
And even though we may have never even considered what God may be asking us to do... it doesn’t mean that God hasn’t been preparing us to do it. Or that God hasn’t been calling you, and you in particular, to do it.
Of course, you don’t have to worry... Mary’s already given birth to Jesus, so God won’t be asking you to do anything remotely close to that! But don’t think for a second that God let’s you, or me, off the hook! When God calls... the angels are still holding their breath to hear your answer. And don’t think, just because you can’t hear it, that all the heavenly hosts aren’t singing praise to God when you choose to freely say, “yes.”
“I am the Lord’s servant.” The choice is ours... but that choice could make all the difference in the world.
Mary’s willingness to say “yes” has given us the greatest Christmas gift of all... in Jesus...
(Read Luke 2:1-20)