December 20, 2020; Luke 1:26-38; Fourth Sunday of Advent
Our lives would be incomplete without a role or a profession that helps us define who we are. We see ourselves as a spouse or an architect, a father or a nurse, a church minister or a landscaper. And from the perspective of faith, none of these roles are accidental. We believe that the God who directs our lives has led us to our positions in life. To say it in another way, God calls us to be a mother, a lawyer, or an agent for social change.
Now the bible knows this action of God very well and presents us scenes in which individuals are called by God to do what God wishes. One of the most famous of these scenes is today’s gospel, where Mary is called to be the mother of Jesus. But this passage is so rich that it not only tells us about Mary’s call, it gives us insights into our call as well. It tells us that in our calling most of us will experience doubt and all of us will discover an invitation to something more.
When the angel Gabriel calls Mary, Mary does not accept at once. She first has a question, a doubt, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man.” The angel reassures Mary, and she accepts. But not without question. This passage tells us that even when we are called by God, even when we know we are called by God, there will still be days on which we doubt, times at which we question: “Should I really have married this person?” “Is this job really worth the effort I am putting into it?” Such questioning might lead to a change, or it might lead to recommitment. But wherever it leads, God wants it to be clear that doubting is a part of the call, not a rejection of it. If Mary could question her call delivered by an angel, so can we.
The second truth that flows from Mary’s call tells us that our call is an invitation to something more. When Mary was called, the angel told her about her elderly cousin, Elizabeth, who was with child. That information was an invitation for Mary to act. God did not expect Mary to stay comfortably in Nazareth, content that she was called to be the mother of the Savior. God invited Mary to go out, to do something more, to help her cousin. The same is true for us. If we earn our living as a business owner, God can call us to something more. Perhaps God will call us to be one who listens to an employee who is struggling or who has experienced a personal loss. Even as we relish our roles as grandparents, the love we feel for our grandchildren can be an invitation to something more, an invitation to become aware of so many children in our world who do not have families or who are held back because of race or a lack of influence. If we have just worked our way through a painful divorce, God can still be calling us to more, a new relationship or perhaps a ministry working with others whose marriages have come to an end.
When Mary said yes to the angel, she accepted her call. But she also showed us that doubt can be a part of the yes and once we have accepted our call from God, we are not finished. God is more than likely to ask of us something more.