“Yes” to God

Pentecost 13 (Mary, Mother of our Lord)

Luke 2:1-7

Marian Free

May our “yes” to God, be a source of transformation for ourselves and in turn, for the world. Amen.

It must be absolutely amazing to see the desert in bloom after the rain, or Lake Eyre teeming with bird and fish life when the waters from the north fill it to the brim. To watch the dry and barren earth respond to the rain, slowly turn green and then to blossom with flowers of all different shapes, sizes and colours must be truly magical. Our spring is not as spectacular as that of cooler climes, but it is still possible to discern the changes and to observe new shoots, on trees like the frangipani as the bare winter branches respond to warmth and light. In temperate climates of course, the change is more dramatic – trees that are bare and apparently lifeless, spring into leaf, then bud and flower and sometimes even fruit. Snow covered ground parts to allow the spear-like leaves of snowdrops, daffodils and jonquils to push through, dotting the white with green until the flowers of yellow and white provide carpets of colour on a background of green grass. Nature simply opens itself to the changes in light, water and warmth and wonders result.

A pervasive image associated with God’s (positive) relationship with Israel is that of fertility  (even fecundity). The nation without God is described as barren and desolate, but its return to God will be so life-giving, that it will be like the desert blooming. The message that the prophets proclaim in many and varied ways, is that existence without God is dry, bleak and empty, but that with God, life is rich, fruitful and full. God’s love is bountiful, extravagant and limitless, for with God there are no half measures, God gives everything that he has and God gives without restraint. The Old Testament prophets insist that in order to receive that love and the abundance that God offers, Israel needs only to give up its striving for independence and to accept God’s sovereignty instead of going its own way, serving other “gods” and resisting the God of their forebears.

God’s loving goodness, while a powerful force for change, simply cannot break through a wall of resistance and stubbornness. Love needs a welcome before it can make itself at home and effect the transformation promised by the prophets.

And so it is we come to Mary who, at the turn of the eras, opened herself – heart, mind and body – to the presence of God in her life.  Mary who, despite her youth, instinctively knew that no matter the risks and the potential costs, life with God would still be infinitely better and richer than life without God. Mary, whose “yes” to God two thousand years ago, is an exemplar for our own “yes” today. Mary, whose ready submission to God’s will is a model for the surrender of our own lives to God. Mary, whose acceptance of God’s life within her, succeeded in giving God a body in which to be physically present in the world and which in turn succeeded in bringing salvation to every nation.

Beginning with nothing but Mary’s welcoming heart, God burst forth into life, taking the world by surprise and opening up new possibilities for relationship with God. What Mary illustrates and Jesus demonstrates, is that a life completely given over to God is not a life of servitude that is limited and constrained, but rather a life of freedom, fulfillment and satisfaction. What they teach us is that surrendering our all, leads not to the loss of our selves, but rather to the discovery of our true selves, the self made in the image of God, free from the impurities of our frail human existence and enlivened by the Spirit. When we give our wholehearted “yes” to God, God makes a home with us. When we give ourselves fully to God we are not thereby condemned to a life of dry, dull compliance but to a life filled with abundant joy, extravagant love and endless possibility, a life in which we are liberated to reach our full potential.

If we have not yet experienced that fullness of life that results from God’s presence in us, it may be that, unlike Mary, we are still holding something back. If we have not experienced God’s profligate love, it is perhaps because we are insisting on holding on to our independence, resisting giving our all or unwilling just yet to allow God to fully inhabit us.

God asks to come in, but will not force himself on us. It remains our choice to welcome God or not, our choice to align our lives with God, our choice to participate in God’s future hopes for ourselves and for the world.

When Mary offered God a home and opened her heart to God, she risked everything – her relationship with Joseph, her reputation and even her life. At the time, she could have had no real idea of how her life would pan out, no concept of the joy and the pain that would ensue, no inkling of the significance of her action for the future of the entire world, but, confident of God’s goodness and grace, Mary said “yes” and as a result the possibilities for the whole of humanity were expanded and enhanced.

If Mary’s “yes” made such a difference to the history of the world, who knows what our “yes” to God – collective or individual – might mean. If we have the courage to wholeheartedly say “yes” to God, the desert might bloom, injustice cease, poverty come to an end and peace reign on earth. Just one word from us might make all the difference.

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