“It’s hard to know just what God wants me to do,” someone said to me recently. “It must have been so much easier for those folks back in Bible times, when God just showed up and told them exactly what he wanted…”

I was thinking about this conversation this week as I was re-reading Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus. And I’m not so sure that I agree with my friend.

Our story begins with Mary, a young girl, a virgin, engaged to be married. We don’t know much else about her, perhaps because there wasn’t anything particularly special or unusual to report. Until that one day when, apparently out of the blue, an angel shows up with a message. “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!” says the angel.

Luke says that “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” I think that might be an understatement. The angel goes on to complicate matters with more news: the birth of a son, Jesus by name, who will be called the Son of God. Oh – and don’t worry about that whole virgin thing – God’s got a work-around for that: Mary will be “overshadowed by the power of the Most High.”

Well, thanks, angel – that certainly explains it all clearly. Clear as mud.

I’m not so sure that Mary had a very definite idea about what this plan was that God had in mind, even if she did get the news directly from an angel. Please note too – not only is the arrival of this baby not explained all that well, the angel is decidedly vague about how things are going to go afterwards. Somehow I think if it was me, I would have had a lot more questions; I think I would have wanted a lot more details about how all this was going to turn out.

Have you ever – when you were just starting to read a book – taken a quick look at the last chapter, the last page – just to see how it all ends up? I think it’s a pretty normal human reaction – to want to know the end before we even begin. How much Mary must have wanted to be able to read the end of this story…

And yet – somehow – this is her response: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Against all odds, against all logic, all human preference to know the end of the story, she jumps in – all the way in. “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” she says. And maybe that’s the key to it all. Mary’s heart is close to God’s – and she knows the stories of all that God has done for her people, Israel. So she’s willing to believe that she might have a part in those stories; when the call comes, when the message gets delivered, she’s willing to trust God, to take the risk. Even though she doesn’t know the end of the story.

How can we prepare ourselves for God’s call? Like Mary, we can keep on reading and listening to the stories of what God has done for our people – both in Bible times and today. We can believe that we too, can have a role in those stories. And we can pray that our hearts will stay close to God’s, so that our inner ear is listening for the call. Because you just never know when that voice will say “Greetings….”

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