It was at Advent Lessons and Carols at All Saints’ Church in Austin, Texas, when I first heard a song called “Mary Said Yes.” In the last decade or so since I first heard it, the words have caused me to wonder and to explore more deeply about what it means to say “yes” to God.
Told of God's favor, told of God's purpose,
Mary said, "Tell me, how can this be?"
Told of the Spirit, told of the power,
told of the promise, Mary said yes.
Yes to conceiving, yes to the body
changing and growing, yes to the flesh.
Yes to the new life kicking within her,
yes to the pleasure, yes to the pain.
Yes to the waiting, yes to the labor,
yes to the hurting, yes to the birth.
Yes to the baby, yes to the future,
yes to the holy, yes to the world.
Told of Christ Jesus, told of the Spirit,
can we say yes as Mary said yes?
Yes for our bodies, yes for our spirits,
yes for the future, yes for right now?
Praise to the Spirit, praise to the Most High
sending the word that Mary was told.
Praise to Christ Jesus, who was made welcome
into our world when Mary said yes.
I wonder what Mary really meant when she asked the angel messenger, “How can this be?” Was she simply asking how an unmarried girl could become pregnant with a child, or was she perhaps asking something deeper? Was she asking how a perfectly ordinary Jewish girl could be so favored by God that an angel would come to her with what must have sounded like an outlandish proposal? How could it be that the God of all creation would want to, need to, use a girl like her to bear God in her body and bring God into the world?
I wonder how on earth people have gotten the idea that being favored by God means that we will get a bigger house, a nicer car, and a healthy bank account. God favored Mary enough to ask her to bear God into our world, and yet Mary said “yes” to pleasure and pain, to the waiting and the hurting. She said “yes” to the shame and the possible rejection in her present life (what on earth was she going to tell her parents, her fiancé, the local rabbi, the gossipy neighbors?). She said “yes” to the unknown of the future.
I wonder what it means for us to say “yes.” Can the God of creation possibly favor each of us enough, possibly favor an Episcopal diocese along the Gulf Coast enough, to ask us to be God’s partner in bringing the message of God’s son into the world? I wonder if we can carry that message in our own physical bodies, in this body called the church, and birth Jesus into our world.
Before I went to seminary, my spiritual director gave me a rock. The G-rated version of what is written on it is, “Yes darn it!” It is a reminder that, when we say “yes” to God, it is not all going to be a rose garden. There will be pleasure and pain, waiting and hurting, perhaps difficulties in the present and a future we cannot imagine. But, we say “yes” any way. Darn it!
With all my wondering, there is one thing of which I am absolutely certain. Our world desperately needs Christ and Christ’s message of love and people who will say “yes” to birthing Christ and that message of love into our world again and again and again.
Reference for the song mentioned above: http://www.selahpub.com/Choral/ChoralTitles/405-201-MarySaidYes.html