Getting ready for Christ-mass? Mary can help. Be like Mary.

When Mary first found out she was going to have a baby, she had only one question and only one response. You might have had more.

The Merode Altarpiece, Robert Campin c. 1428
The Merode Altarpiece, Robert Campin c. 1428

First, her question: while she might have been a innocent, Jewish girl, she knew how babies were made. And she hadn’t been anywhere near the production line. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” she adroitly asks. And the answer is one-of-a-kind: the Holy Spirit is going to do something in you that’s never been done before, or ever will be done again. The son who will grow inside you will be conceived by the Holy Spirit, and he will be the King we’ve been waiting for and the Saviour of the world. (Luke 1:26-38)

Mind-blowing. Impossible. Totally out of left field. Not even on her radar.

So what does she say in response? Only one thing: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”  Mary, having received the most unexpected news you could receive, yields herself in total trust to the will of God.

Did she know what this gift meant? Could she imagine the turmoil her sudden pregnancy would invoke? Was there any way that anyone would believe her baby bump story? And what will it all mean, that her son would be the Son of the Most High?

She knew none of that.

But she trusted the Father’s goodness, and knew that what God was going to do in her and through her was greater than anything she had ever imagined possible.

So she stepped up. With courage and grace, Mary offered herself freely and fully to God’s crazy plan.  “I am yours”, she declared. “Everything I have is yours–my life, my future, my will, my body. Do in me what you have determined to do–I am submitted to your will.”

Mary challenges me, immensely.  I don’t think anyone has ever received a higher calling than this girl, in whom the very Hope of the world was conceived. And yet, the Son who came in her by the Holy Spirit then, comes to us by the Holy Spirit now.  Emmanuel, meaning “God with us,” came to make his home among us and in us. Mary was the nexus of that arrival, but God’s plan was that through Mary he would be able to finally live among his people, as he had always hoped to do (John 1:14; Rev 20:3-4). Do I have even a fraction of her courage to respond?

During the season of Advent, hearts and minds are reminded again of God’s sudden coming in Jesus. And while many barely remember the core surprise of Christmas, the celebration of his coming recalls for those who do his basic plan for restoring this broken world: coming to live in us, so that he could do for us and then through us what only he could do–destroy evil and return life to the world.

The Advent questions compelling me are these: Will I, like Mary, submit myself to God’s desire to make his home in me? Will I trust his goodness, even when his plan overturns my own? Will I let God do something in me that will fundamentally change my life and the lives of those around me? Will I pray, echoing Mary’s heart, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled”?

Getting ready for Christ-mass means saying yes to God’s plan. Do we know where that will lead? Not fully, maybe not even barely. But we do know, even when our lives take unexpected routes, that God’s plan will be good, because he is good. Can we trust him in that? Mary did. And I want to be like her.

I am your servant, Lord. May your word to me be fulfilled.

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