In so many ways, I am drawn to the beginning of the Gospel of Luke, and the story of the birth of Messiah. The story portrayed there in the words written by the Evangelist so many years ago still captures our hearts and minds as it vividly tells the story of Emmanuel, of a God who loves us so much that this God will do anything, including taking on human flesh and entering into the limits of time and space to be with us in direct relationship. Much of my pondering about this incredible story, however, is centered around the figure of Mary. I hardly can begin to understand, let alone describe, the emotions, the thoughts, the uncertainty, the unparalleled realization Mary must have encountered as the words of the angel began to seep into her consciousness and the plan of God began to unfold through her. This unfolding would turn her life upside down, bringing her scorn and, to some degree, danger as the situation evolved. She has been told that she has been chosen by God to help bring about the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation for all people. Mary. A smalltown girl without fame or notoriety or power or high education or prestige would be, of all people, singled out to carry God’s Word to the world, to birth incarnation. What does one do when confronted with this realization? Mary’s response, which is one of my favorite pieces of Scripture, stands out as a defiant assertion. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” While she didn’t know the path ahead, she must have sensed this new reality would change her life in many ways, and that the future would not be easy.
Uncertainty is a part of human life. I don’t need to tell you this. Each of us faces uncertainty often on our journey. Unfortunately, uncertainty often can provoke anxiety, and anxiety can be paralyzing for us as we face a future we cannot fully predict. While God indeed speaks promises over our lives, God does not promise to reveal to us ahead of time what course our lives will take. Much about the future remains unknown until we encounter it. That is why Mary stands out for me as a wonderful example of strength in the midst of uncertainty. She could have balked at the announcement and proclaimed her inability, her youth, her lack of credentials or understanding or life-experience. Instead, when faced with a possibility of God’s working through her for the sake of the world, Mary says, “Ok, I accept. Lord, I am your servant and will do my best to walk with you in this uncertain journey.”
In today’s world, where everything seems to have changed so much, so quickly, and we do not know where the future will take us, perhaps Mary can shine forth as an example. Luke doesn’t say she was without anxiety or doubt or fear. Luke simply tells us that Mary accepted the mission God placed before her, and Christmas- incarnation happened. Moving forward as a congregation, we are heirs of this missional resolve shown by Mary. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but we do know that we have been called, we have been chosen to do mission, we have been touched by God’s grace and love and promise, so that, like Mary, we can open ourselves to the possibilities which the future might present. Perhaps the most faithful thing we can say in the midst of our uncertainty, our anxiety, our doubt, is “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Opening ourselves to God’s possibilities in this way may allow the incarnate word to be revealed through us.