In Luke’s Gospel, we have the account of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary to inform her that she has found favor in God’s sight. In Mary’s conversation with Gabriel we are informed that God has chosen her to give birth to God’s own Son, who will be named Jesus. This conversation ends with Mary’s response, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38 NRSV). As we near the beginning of the Advent season, we need to understand that part of our preparation and reflection on the birth of Jesus must include an understanding that our response of “Yes Lord” is a willingness to be risk-takers for God.
We see in the passage of Luke 1:26-38, that Mary is at first troubled by Gabriel’s salutation, and then questions how she can have a son since she is still a virgin, but after Gabriel affirms that she will carry God’s Son, and states that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk 1:37), Mary says “yes” to God. I’m sure that the repercussions of becoming pregnant while still betrothed crossed Mary’s mind. Deuteronomy tells us that a woman may be stoned to death if accused of adultery by her husband or her betrothed (Dt 22:13-24). We see a real risk in Mary’s answer to God. She is trusting God’s word completely, even though she cannot know what Joseph will do when he finds her to be pregnant. We know from the Gospel of Matthew that Joseph decided not to publicly disgrace Mary, but did intend to secretly divorce her until the angel of the Lord appeared to him and confirmed that Mary was indeed carrying God’s child (Mt 1:18-25).
Mary was willing to risk her reputation being ruined and possibly shaming her family in order to say “yes” to God. She had faith that God’s proclamation of her bearing a son would come to fruition because she believed God’s word is true, and that God is faithful. It is easy for us to sing songs of saying yes to God, but it is not always an easy thing to do in practice. Yet, as we reflect on the birth of Jesus, we see that it begins with Mary taking personal risks in order to say yes to God. So, as we not only reflect on Jesus’ birth but also prepare for Christ’s second coming, we must also be willing to be risk-takers in order to say yes to what God has called us to do. Saying yes to God may require us to make personal sacrifices, change our plans, or bring criticism from others in our lives, so we must ask ourselves, have we been willing to take risks in order to say “yes” to God? As we prepare to celebrate Christmas may we be reminded of those like Mary, who have been willing to take a risk, not only for their own personal faith, but so that others would benefit from the results of their saying “yes” to God; and may we be encouraged and willing to be risk-takers for the benefit and faith of others as well.