Mary said Yes
We, the Church, are privileged to know something about the history and significance of the birth of Jesus Christ – most of us having been reared in Christian families, where the accounts of the birth, life, and ministry of Jesus Christ have been long familiar. As our own Paul Harvey would agree, “we know the rest of the story” beyond the words of Luke’s Birth Narrative that we love to hear again and again at this time each year. We know that Jesus grew up to preach and teach and bring healing and salvation to the world – that he died on the cross and rose again.
And so, we come with awe into this season of celebration of the Nativity, reflecting on the impact the birth of Jesus Christ has had on our lives and on all creation.
First Century Christians did not have the benefit of 2000 years of Christian history and teaching. They did not yet know the rest of the story. Jesus’ birth was not hailed by many-at-all of the known world as a significant event. Luke’s Gospel account of the birth tells us that the shepherds acknowledged the angels’ glad tidings of great joy, and Matthew describes the Magi as they were intrigued to follow the astrological signs that led them to seek out the Christ child; and, we like to think the cattle and sheep and doves were aware of the marvelous new thing that was occurring.
The narcissistic King Herod, we are told, sought the babe out of great fear for his monarchy; this fear led Herod to the widespread slaughter of newborn males in an effort to eliminate the perceived threat to his throne.
But, besides all these, there is no indication of others in general paying attention to this world-changing, life-transforming event as it occurred in Bethlehem so long ago.
Certainly not the innkeeper in Bethlehem: Luke’s Gospel indicates that the innkeeper said “no” to the expectant couple; “there is no room for you here.” [Luke 2:7b].
We know that Jesus grew up in Nazareth in a traditional Jewish family where surely his hometown neighbors admired him as a “good” boy – perhaps a “favored son.” Yet once Jesus came of age and began his teaching and ministry, they said, Huh, “is not this the carpenter’s son? Where did this man get all this wisdom and deeds of power?” Matthew tells us “they took offense at him” – their local boy; they said “no” to his teaching and wisdom and deeds of power.
In John’s Gospel we read the account of the “woman at the well.” This Samaritan woman was at least suspicious. After her encounter with Jesus and his words of “living water,” she ran back to her people with breathless exaltation, “He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” [John 4:29b]
Yet, Jesus’ own religious community – the leaders from whom he had been taught the history and the prophecy and the law – those of his own faith and heritage said “No,” he is not our king; he is not the Son of God as he claims to be; he is not our long-awaited Messiah. They said, “No.” They said, “Crucify him!”
As the centuries have passed, many have said “No.” Many continue to say “no” to the peace that passeth all understanding in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. God grants us the freedom to say “No.”
Mary did not say “No.” Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Mary said, “Yes.” Few, if any, would suffer the cost of discipleship more than Mary. Mary said, “Yes.”
What if Mary had said, “No, I’m too much afraid”? What if Mary had said, “I have no room”? What if Mary had said, “He is only a carpenter’s son”? What if Mary had said, “He cannot be the Messiah”?
Mary said, “Yes,” in spite of fear and all the uncertainties. Mary said “Yes” to being the vessel for the coming of God into the world in human person – to live and die as one of us. The angel of God said, “Do not be afraid.” And Mary said, “Yes. Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
We, the Church, are privileged to know something about the significance of the birth of Jesus Christ. We, the Church, are privileged time and again to hear these words of the Annunciation that we have heard this morning in our Gospel lesson. We, the Church, are privileged to be the vessel of God’s grace as Mary was the vessel – the Godbearer. We, the heirs of those who said, “yes” to the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ are privileged to continue to carry on that mission.
Despite the uncertainties, despite the fear, be the vessel as Mary was the vessel. Say, “YES. Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”