Saying Yes to God

From Ian Toone

Image: The Annunciation, by El Greco (completed 1575)

Luke 1:38 – Mary said, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be unto me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. 

Do you ever want to ask a question which you feel you’re not supposed to ask? One such question might be “What if Mary had said ‘No’?”

I’m referring to Mary the mother of Jesus. When the angel Gabriel announced to her that she was highly favoured and would give birth to the Saviour of the world, Mary had a difficult choice to make. In His foreknowledge and omniscience, God may have known that Mary would make the right choice, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t have to make a choice. It’s not always easy to say “Yes” to God. It could involve shame, suffering and sacrifice. That was the case even for Jesus. When facing the cross, Jesus prayed earnestly that God would allow him to avoid being crucified, but he also surrendered himself to the will of God. The New Testament tells us that, for the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross, despising the shame (Hebrews 12:2).

But what about Mary? When the angel appeared to her, God hadn’t spoken for 400 years, so Mary could have said, “I don’t believe that God speaks like that to us anymore. I’ve heard about such things in times past, but not anymore, and certainly not to people like me.”

Or she could have said, “Me? Giving birth to the Son of God? I wasn’t born yesterday. That’s a crazy idea!” Or she could have said, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’m not cut out for this; I’m not even worthy. Surely, you could find someone better than me?”

Or she could have said, “This is my life, and I want to live it my way. I have my own plans and ambitions. What about my plans with my fiancé Joseph? What about our hopes and dreams?” She could also have thought about the social consequences of being found pregnant prior to wedlock. In that day and age, she was liable to being stoned to death.

The question is hypothetical because we know that Mary said “Yes”. But many people have said “No” to God, going right back to Adam and Eve, and continuing until today. Moses initially said “No”, as did Jonah, the rich young ruler, king Agrippa,= and many others.  As we prepare for Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth, are we content to enjoy all the festivities – the food and drink, parties, decorations, celebrating with friends and family, giving and receiving gifts – without Jesus. Or are we going to say “Yes” by finding room for Jesus in our lives this Christmas?

“Lord God, please help us to submit to You this Christmas.  Like Mary, may we declare that we are Your servants. And may we say, like Jesus did, “Not my will, but Yours be done”.  This Christmas, may we not be distracted by commercialism, nostalgia or sentimentality but may we take time to spend with You, and may we hear what you are saying to us and what you are calling us to do, and may we be obedient to Your word. In Jesus’ name.  Amen!”

Ian Toone