Monday, December 19, 2011

She Said ... Yes.

Every year during the last week of Advent I remember the story of the Annunciation: that few minutes when the angel Gabriel met with a teen girl to inform her that God - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - was about to deliver Israel. To get that done, God was finally sending the Messiah. The catch was that God intended to use Mary to bring him into the world.

Mary's response - what we call the Magnificat - could only have come from the lips of a person deeply imbibed in the story of Israel and expectantly waiting for the Messiah to come. Mary was hoping for the Messiah. Mary prayed for the Messiah. Mary longed for the Messiah. Now her hopes, prayers and longings were to be fulfilled.

But NOT in the way Mary planned.

It doesn't take much imagination to recognize that Mary wasn't thinking God would deliver Israel by making her pregnant out of wedlock. We do not know exactly what Mary's expectations were about how the Messiah would come, but it seems plain that her expectations about her hope and the way God intended to fulfill her hope did not match up.

And so, what did Mary do? She said ... yes. 

Think what Mary could have done. She could have stalled in confusion because God's way of fulfilling his promise did not match her preconceived notions. She could have actively fought God because God's way of doing things did not matter to her.  Instead, Mary said yes. She said yes because she was able to keep her hopes and expectations separated. 

This fourth week in Advent always reminds me to be unmoving with my hopes and nimble with my expectations. All of us are looking for God to show up in our lives. But we need to heed Mary's model. By all means, hope in God; trust God fully! But at the same time we must be careful to not tie our hopes to closely to expectations. In doing that we might miss God and we might find ourselves, in the midst of our hope, saying no to God.

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