A reflection on Luke 1:26-38 by the Rev. Marnie Peterson
The courage of Mary’s ‘yes’ strikes me every year. Her ‘How can this be?’ and then ‘here I am, let it be’ – leaves me speechless.
Really? An angel shows up and tells you that you are going to have a baby – and not just any baby, but one who will reign over the house of Jacob forever (so no pressure) – an oh yes you’re not married yet, but no problem. Mary’s ‘yes’ to all of that – is crazy. Really. Risky and scary and so courageous.
And it leaves me considering what it takes to say ‘yes’; because saying yes rarely comes without some sort of risk.
Last week, Lois asked us to consider who we are – this week, with just three days to go before Christmas, I want us to think tonight about what it means to say yes to Jesus.
Each year, as I consider this passage, I wonder: what if Mary had said no? I mean, I think about the few times that I have truly felt called to do something; it took me literally years to say yes to ordination – mostly because I was pretty convinced that God had the wrong girl. Still there are moments when I wonder. Saying no is often so much easier. It comes with so much less disruption.
But on some level each of us has said yes to Jesus tonight. Sitting here – participating in this communities liturgy – saying the prayers and responses together – even if we are not sure what to do with them. Even if we are not sure what it means.
We have allowed ourselves, if only for tonight – to be a part of this larger story. And sometimes I do not think we understand how completely counter-western culture it is to say, ‘ I do not stand alone – that this story that I am a part of is larger that just my own. We put so much emphasis on being autonomous individuals, which of course we are – but we, sitting here, if only for tonight – have opened ourselves to the possibility that we are connected. We have chosen to be a part of something else.
Saying “yes” to Jesus is saying “yes” to participation in community. It’s considering that decisions are about more than just me as an individual in the decisions I make. It’s listening in community as we discern God’s voice, together.
This has been another hard week in our world. Children were killed in their classrooms in Pakistan. Hostages were taken in a coffee shop in Sydney, Australia. And in what could have been and may still be an opportunity to look for differences between us and them – a woman named Rachel Jacobs started #illridewithyou in support of Muslim men and women – I read that it began when she noticed a Muslim woman taking her headcover off and getting off the bus. Rachel Jacobs apparently got off the bus and ran after her offering to ride with her.
“Yes” said Mary to the Angel – I’ll take the risk. I’ll participate in a story that is bigger than my own, because it’s good for the world.
Mary became a part of our story. Those who say yes to standing up for love of neighbour, they too become a part of our story.
And often she is described as being meek and mild, this Mary that we are talking about – but I would like to submit that she was pretty courageous and bold. You’ve heard this before, but an unmarried, young woman pregnant. She was not a power holder – and yet, her yes was a powerful response to a pretty big ask.
In Nadia Bolz-Weber’s piece entitled, ‘The Virgin birth: Fact or Fiction?’, she writes the following:
In joining the church in a confession of faith – whether in the Sanctus or in the Creed – we say, this is our story. And to say something is our story is a powerful, life-shaping thing. But it is not YOUR story. It is not YOUR creed. It is the CHURCH’S story, the CHURCH’S creed and you and I are a small part of the church
I think I’ve said this before, (it’s my favorite quote from the Animate Faith series) but saying yes to participating in this community is to be willing to look for Jesus, for God in people who are as completely annoying as I am.
Saying yes to Jesus is to risk the possibility that in fact I am not the most important person in the room. It’s to be vulnerable, to offer belief in something larger and much more magnificent than I could possibly imagine. It to say yes to a truth that is rooted in love for other, in a passionate response to justice seeking, to looking for God in everything and giving up control and believing in forgiveness, in working to ensure the safety of my neighbour even in what can sometimes feel like an overwhelmingly scary world.
And it’s hard and demanding – it insists that we take the Gospel seriously. That we take God’s participation in the world seriously and that we watch for it and tend to it.
It’s not the kind of thing that I could quite so quickly just say, ‘Let it be’, to.
I needed to think about it for a while. Before saying yes to Jesus, I needed to talk to others in the community and think about the greater implication for my life were – because I knew that it was (and is) entirely possible that I would not be very good at it.
Saying yes to Jesus is something that I work at every day and some days I am far more successful than others.
I want you to think about what is has looked like in your life to say yes. If you are still not sure, what would it take for you to say yes?
And what does or could that yes look like?