The following Advent reflection is by Associate Bonnie Chester.
I read this statement during Advent last year: God can do amazing things through one person who will say, “Yes.” If the writer was referring to Mary, the Mother of God, I would say, “Yes, indeed.” Wouldn’t you? However, I think there is more than one person saying yes in this amazing story.
Mary was an ordinary teen living in the small town of Nazareth, with a bright future, engaged to a young man named Joseph. You know the story. If you are a woman reading this, you most likely had dreams of marriage, a house, children. And men, did you once aspire to partner with the love of your life and raise children? All these dreams got hijacked, so to speak, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary. ”You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus, and he will be called the son of the Highest.” Don’t you think these were her first thoughts: “This will cost me all my dreams and plans I have made for my life. My future marriage is in jeopardy and my reputation is ruined.” Sometimes what God asks us is inconvenient or uncomfortable. “This might cost me something, it is not what I had planned,” you would most likely think. But Mary’s reply was swift, according to Luke, “Here am I, a servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:26)
The equally important person in this conception of the Lord is Joseph. He never actually says “yes” to the angel Gabriel, but his act of obedience is a silent “yes” in my estimation. We have to go to the gospel of Matthew to read of the account of his angelic visit. He gets the shocking news in a dream, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matt 1:20-25) Interestingly, the angel instructs Joseph too, in the naming of the child, “you are to name him Jesus,” a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, meaning Yahweh saves. Joseph was an ordinary man who bravely stood up and silently said “yes” I will follow God’s plan. How about you?
There are two other people who play an important part in this miracle: Zechariah and Elizabeth (who is Mary’s older cousin.) The angel Gabriel is quite busy going around with all this good news, isn’t he? (Although the angel who appeared to Joseph is not named, I have always thought Gabriel was responsible for that news, too.) The account of this couple’s role is only recounted in Luke and Matthew. It is a beautiful “read.” Sit with your bible and prayerfully read Luke and Matthew’s first chapters. It was revealed to the couple that they would bring forth a son, a miracle for their advanced ages. You will learn that Zechariah, when he hears that he is to be a father, doubts Gabriel and is therefore mute until John’s birth. “Your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” (Matt 1:13) Bible scholars tells us that at that time, it was customary for a son to receive the name of his father or at the very least the name of a family relative. But in obedience to the words of the angel, (another silent “yes” I would say) he is named John. Zechariah, who is still mute, writes the name John on a tablet and “immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.” He proclaims a prophecy: “The dawn from on high will break upon us to give light to those who sit in darkness…. to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
Let’s not forget Elizabeth. Her unbelievable faith that the Son of God was in the womb of her cousin Mary, who comes to visit her, is her silent yes, I think. “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me?” (Luke 1:43)
What if any of these people had refused or ignored the Holy Spirit’s power, and hadn’t responded to God’s requests? Do you think there would not have been a Nativity? But they didn’t refuse, they all said yes, they trusted, and they believed. They each had a strong faith, and they welcomed their Savior with joy.
God can do amazing things through one person who will say, “Yes.” Can you be that person? On Christmas, the most special day of His birth, can you, will you, say, “Yes” to Jesus and have him enter into your heart, your life and have His spirit, His love be a vibrant part of your life?
Lord, please help me to see your plan, to stand strong in my faith when you ask me to go beyond myself, to say “yes,” even when it seems hard. Let me tell You, as Mary told the angel Gabriel, “let it be done to me according to your word.” Amen.
Artwork by Jen Norton, used with permission.