Seen on a church sign today: Let it be to me according to your word.
Immediately I recognized this as Mary’s response to the angel when she was informed that she was about to become the mother of the Messiah. As I continued to drive I started to think about the meaning of her response.
This was a response of faith: She heard the word of God and she accepted it.
This is a response of obedience: She was willing to do that which God asked of her.
Then I started thinking about our response, are we as willing to accept God’s word as it is given to us? I know that there are times when I want to say no to God. I want to tell him that I don’t like all of his word, some of it is too hard, or it makes too many demands on me. I am quite happy to accept and even demand the blessings that his word promises but not necessarily the hard work or danger.
Or what about our response of obedience? I have to confess that I am not so good there either. God says go, and I say, I am too comfortable here. The Holy Spirit nudges and I don’t even merit him a response, I just ignore the nudges. Clearly I have a lot of work to do on both hearing God and responding with obedience.
As I drove along I recalled that Advent is our season of repentance. This is the time when we are offered the opportunity to hear God’s word and respond with faith and obedience. What would it take to simply, with trust and faith say, “let it be unto me according to your word.”?
Well, to start it would take a lot of courage. Mary wasn’t just agreeing to have a baby, she was agreeing to put her very life in danger. As an unmarried woman, being found pregnant would mean that she could be convicted of adultery and stoned to death. Clearly there is risk involved when we give ourselves over to God wholeheartedly and without reservation.
Can we do it?
Can I do it?
That is a question that I hesitate to answer. I have given my life to God in service, and in ministry and it has not always been blessings and rose petals. I have now closed two congregations and may well close a third. After the first closed congregation I was unemployed for a year and a half. Since the second closure I have been working half time in the third mentioned congregation. Half time also means half pay and boy does the money run out before the month is completed. If this third congregation closes I don’t know what I’ll do or where I’ll go….
So can I say to God, “let it be to me according to your word”?
Well, at this point, what do I have to lose. The one thing that I have learned is that God has always taken very good care of me. I know that I can trust him.
More to the point, I don’t believe that I have any option. The alternative would be to live outside of God’s will, and that I can tell you from experience is not a life that I ever want to go back to.
So if my options are a life with God, lived according to God’s word or a life without God, I choose a life with God every time. So that means that I am “all in”. There is no room here for wishy-washy commitment. If the choice is “with God” or “without God” I will choose God every time.
For that reason this is my prayer for Advent
Holy God, holy and loving
Holy God, holy and wise
This day I place my trust in you
This day I give to you my will
This day I surrender to you my fear
This day I affirm that I will love you and serve you
May my faith grow in strength
May my confidence in you grow into abundance
May my life reflect your grace in all things
May my life spread your grace to all people
May your love grow in me
May your love be shared by me
But most of all, God, source of all hope
May it be to me according to your word. Amen.