Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 20, 2015
Saying YES to people’s requests can have huge consequences.
As your rector I sometimes need to ask people to take on some task…and first I try to remember to give them permission to say “NO.” Psychologists advise people dealing with too much stress to cultivate the habit of saying NO much more often—or at least to wait 24 hours before saying YES to anything. I agree with that advice—usually.
Unless it’s God who’s knocking on your door.
Today we touch once again the lovely story of Mary, a young woman of the small backwater town of Nazareth, in the hills of Judah. Mary was visited by one of God’s most splendid messengers, the Archangel Gabriel. He asked her to be the mother of a child conceived in her by God.
And Mary said yes. But only after asking a very good culturally-appropriate question—how could she conceive a child since she was not yet married? The answer came, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.” And the angel was quick to add, “for nothing will be impossible for God.”
Wow, what do you do with that kind of information?
Mary seemed to ponder it a little bit, and then she said her YES. Well, more exactly, she told the angel, “Here am I, the handmaiden of the Lord. Let it be with me, according to your word.”
Then Mary went to see her kinswoman Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel told her that Elizabeth in her old age had conceived a son. So Mary went to her, newly pregnant. And when the babies came into close proximity, Elizabeth’s son John leaped in her womb for joy—he sensed, even as a fetus, that he was in the presence of the Most High God, incarnate in Mary’s womb.
Our story of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth ends with Elizabeth’s prophetic utterance to Mary that “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
* * *
Mary said YES to God. She was central to God’s decision to live on this earth as a man. She remains a central figure in salvation history—a woman born in the Old Dispensation, a pivotal figure who brings in the New.
Mary’s YES set into motion an amazing cascade of events that led to the birth of Jesus, and his life of healing and teaching and confronting people when they went off the path. Mary’s YES set the stage for the resurrection of Christ, the birth of the church, the martyrs, the saints, the ordinary people whose examples of faithfulness also show us how to live. Mary’s YES led to the great Cathedrals, stained glass, polyphonic music of praise, the architectural impulse from Romanesque to Gothic. Mary’s YES continues to open hearts to the plight of the poor, and to compassion for the suffering. Mary’s YES gives US hope.
Mary’s YES changed history. Mary’s YES changes history.
OUR yeses have the potential to bring about great change as well. We are asked to listen for God and to respond YES the best we can. God may be asking us to be open to taking more risks in our lives, or to be open to growing personally, even if that means painful change. God may be asking us to go out and kiss the lepers of our time, much as St. Francis kissed the lepers of his time. God may be asking us to do his work in this world—because we are God’s hands; we are God’s feet in the world.
What is God calling you to say YES to now, at this time of your life? Think about that for a few minutes as you color this beautiful design that was drawn for us by our own Eileen Honey. What is God calling you to say YES to now?
And as we finish our coloring and our meditation, please remember that our YESES can set into motion a cascade of goodness that will touch others and set them afire for God. So ask for that help to discern the call of God for you right now. Pray about what you hear, and see if you are able to say YES in response.