She said yes. I wonder why? A young woman, engaged, but not married, minding her own business, trying to be a good Jewish girl…then a person claiming to be an angel shows up, tells her God has chosen her, that she’s pregnant, that she’ll bear—no, really—God’s son. “How can this be?” she asks.
How can this be, when it’s so far outside the box? The women at the well are going to talk. Joseph will be upset. Joseph’s parents? Ugh. If people in town find out she’s pregnant, some might even want to stone her. Why in the world would she say, “Let it be with me according to your word?” Why in the world did Mary say yes?
Saying yes to some things is easy, isn’t it? Free Super Bowl tickets? Yes. A promotion at work? Yes. A batch of Lois’ deviled eggs made especially for you? Oh, yes!
But other things don’t elicit yeses quite so easily. A position on the church Council? Umm… Actively working for justice in the world? Well, I… Welcoming an unplanned pregnancy? You see, I…
I wish we got a little more information between Mary’s question—“How can this be?”—and her yes—“Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” How did Mary get from “How can this be?” to “Here am I, send me?” What process did she go through? What convinced her to say “yes” to God?
If we knew what helped Mary get to yes, maybe that would help us get to yes, too.
Poet Michel Quoist wrestled with this very question in a poem called “I am afraid of saying, ‘yes,’ Lord.” Maybe his struggle in getting to yes will resonate with your own.
I am afraid of saying “yes”, Lord.
Where will you take me?
I am afraid of drawing the longer straw,
I am afraid of signing my name to an unread agreement,
I am afraid of the “yes” that will entail other “yeses”.
Yet I am not at peace.
For you pursue me, besiege me.
I seek out the din for fear of hearing you,
but in a moment of silence,
you slip through.
I turn from the road,
for I have caught sight of you,
but at the end of the path,
you are there, awaiting me.
Where shall I hide?
I meet you everywhere.
Is it even possible to escape you?
I am afraid to say “yes”, Lord.
I am afraid of putting my hand in yours,
for you to hold on to it.
I am afraid of meeting your eyes,
for I know you will win me.
I am afraid of your demands.
I am hemmed in, yet I continue to hide.
I am captured, yet I continue to struggle,
and I fight, knowing that I am defeated.
For you are the stronger one, Lord,
you own the world,
and you take it from me.
When I stretch out my hand,
to catch hold of people and things,
they vanish before my eyes.
I can’t seem to keep anything for myself.
The flower I pick withers in my hands.
My laughter freezes on my lips.
Everything seems empty,
everything seems hollow.
For you have made a desert around me.
I am hungry and thirsty,
and nothing in this world seems to satisfy me.
And yet I have loved you, Lord,
I’ve worked for you; gave my whole life to you,
followed your voice in the night,
from the earliest days of my youth.
O great and terrible God,
what more do you want?
Why won’t you leave me in peace?
* * * * *
My son, I want more for you and the world,
until now, you have planned your actions,
but I have no need of them.
You have asked for my approval.
You have asked for my support.
You have wanted to interest me in your work.
But do you not see,
that you were reversing the roles?
I have watched you, I have seen your good will.
And I want more than you, now.
You will no longer do your own works,
but the will of the one who has called you,
who has whispered to you on that night,
when you were merely a child.
Say “yes”, son.
I need your “yes” as I needed Mary’s, to come to earth.
For it is I who must do your work.
It is I who must live in your family, not you.
It is I who must be in those whose lives you touch, not you.
It is I whose words they must hear, not yours.
It is I whose eyes they must look into, not yours.
It is my Word that carries weight, not yours.
It is my Life that transforms, not yours.
Give all to me, abandon all to me.
I need your “yes” to be united with you,
and to come down to earth.
I need your “yes” to continue saving the world.
O Lord, I am afraid of your demands.
But who can resist you?
That your Kingdom may come, and not mine.
That your Will may be done, and not mine.
Help me to say “yes”.
Well, there you go right there! If God came out and delivered us a poem on the spot or sent an angel or even a well-placed billboard, well, that would make getting to yes as easy as could be, wouldn’t it? If God came to me and said, “Say ‘yes,’ daughter,” I’d probably say yes before God even finished saying the word “daughter.”
But how do you get to yes without all the angels and auras and divine poetry? How do you get to yes when you’re confused and afraid and just trying to live your life? Why bother saying yes to God when life is plenty complicated enough already?
The poet’s God said this: I need your “yes” as I needed Mary’s, to come to earth. I need your “yes” to continue saving the world.
“I need your ‘yes’ to continue saving the world?” Oh, man. Are we really that important to God? What was God thinking, making us human beings so big a part of the divine action plan? Surely, God doesn’t need us to continue saving the world!
But…well…If you think about every religious movement that’s ever happened in the world, if you think about every glimpse of the holy that human beings ever have gotten… people always seem to be hanging around, don’t they? Abraham, Moses, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa. In fact, it’s almost like the thing that unleashes God’s spirit and love into the world is human beings allowing themselves to be used by God. It’s like God’s spirit and love are unleashed in the world only when human beings say “yes” to God.
Like when Mary said yes. Just look how much love was unleashed into the world because Mary said yes to God. Despite her fears, despite her misgivings, despite the inconvenience, Mary said yes…and through her, God was able to do amazing things. Through Mary, God was able to continue saving the world.
What amazing things might happen if you say yes to God? If you say yes to God, in what ways will God’s spirit and love get unleashed in the world? Who’s life might change? Hear me well. No one’s saying you have to say yes to God. But don’t you wonder what might happen if you do?
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
Kimberleigh Buchanan © 2011
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’* 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ 34Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’* 35The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born* will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.’ 38Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her. <!– 39 –>
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, 40where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? 44For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. 45And blessed is she who believed that there would be* a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.’ <!– 46 –>
Mary’s Song of Praise
46 And Mary* said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’