May We Also Say YES To God: Advent 4

May We Also Say YES To God: Advent 4

The Fourth Sunday of Advent: December 20, 2020

Year B: 2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16; Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38; Canticle 15

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“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[1]

I can only imagine Mary’s distress, Mary’s fear when this young woman heard this from a stranger, “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you.[2] She was “greatly distressed at his words and wondered what sort of greeting this might be,”[3] as one translation puts it. In today’s vernacular, “who is this guy, and what is he up to?”

This whole visit of an angel thing is pretty strange. We may think we know what angels look like, but we don’t—those wings and robes, and the trumpets, but that isn’t in the Bible—they come mostly from art history and from people’s imaginations that has given us this depiction.

The Angel Gabriel literally means messenger in the Greek and it’s pretty hard to take in what this messenger, Gabriel has to say. This ordinary young woman would not have been used to being addressed as “most highly favored one.”[4] For Mary you can be sure that this whole thing is disturbing, hard to take in, maybe a little suspicious.

I mean, he says, “you’re going to conceive a child and bear a son.”[5] I’ve got to wonder how the angel, Gabriel, felt about this task from God.  Did he feel even a little uncomfortable with what he was telling this young, unmarried girl. To be perfectly honest, the last line of the Gospel really leaves me feeling a bit floored, flummoxed, and a bit angry with Gabriel. “Then the angel departed from her.” Really? You’ve just dumped this bombshell on Mary and now you’re gone.

But what happened? Mary pondered it, and then Mary agreed. She said, “Yes.” “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”[6]

I wonder what the world would be like if more people responded to God’s interruption in their lives like Mary did. Because Mary models the kind of reaction that we can all hope to have to an appearance, really more like a disturbance from God in our lives.

Because Mary knows her God. And only a few verses later, she will testify to the God she’s always known — the God who shows mercy for those who fear God; who scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; who brings down the powerful from their thrones and lifts up the lowly; who fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty; who remembers Abraham and all his descendants, which now include her, forever. And, now, more than ever, Mary knows who her God is. She knows what her God has done — for her, for her cousin Elizabeth, for the outcast, the overlooked, those discarded, disenfranchised, dismissed.

On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, Mary reminds us of what it looks like and what it sounds like when God shows up in your life — unannounced, unexpected, and unplanned. And this is an important reminder as this season of the church year draws to a close.

While Advent hastens us toward waiting for the birth of Jesus, as I’ve said before we know the outcome. We know that Jesus is born and believe he will come again. God entering humanity, as God did so long ago, will once again be a promise fulfilled.

When God breaks into our world, into our lives, can our response be Mary’s – who says, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.”

What else is there to say?

Think about these words.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the right response, is the Mary response, when God calls us to stand up for the vulnerable.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the “Mary response” when God calls us to stand up to bills and laws that discriminate against God’s children.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the “Mary response”ientation or their immigration status.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the “Mary response” when God calls us to insist on seeking and serving Christ in all people as we are called to by our baptismal covenant.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord,” is the “Mary response” when God asks us to care for God’s creation and environment.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord”.

Mary was an extraordinary young woman, who embodied extraordinary courage. The gospel tells us that Mary said, “let it be to me according to your will.

Mary had been a child, I am sure, like any other child. A child who played, ate and slept like any other child. She only asked, “How can this be?”[7] And then with grace and dignity, she said, yes, with great strength and faithfulness. And for the next almost 50 years she was a disciple, indeed she was an apostle, inextricably linked to her son and his rabble-rousing. And make no mistake, Mary raised a rabble-rouser.

A simple, or perhaps not so simple yes to God. Mary had a choice. So, do we. Will we make Mary’s choice?

God is with us, as God was with Mary. We may be fearful and we may ponder what lies ahead. But we know that however we might feel, God will not abandon us, we are free to love, free to give, free to claim God’s blessings for the poor. God will not send us away empty.

We live in hope, because God has included us, in his salvation, just as he came to depend on and dwell in Mary, that young woman.

We are blessed in this. Listen once again to how St. Paul puts it in this blessing at the end of his letter to the church at Rome:

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

[1] Luke 1:28

[2] Ibid.

[3] Luke 1:29

[4] Luke 1:30

[5] Luke 1:31

[6] Luke 1:38

[7] Luke 1:34

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