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Rev. Dr. Douglas Liston

Is It Really All About You?

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 52He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” -- Luke 1:46-55

Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly? Whoever lays down all power, all honor, all reputation, all vanity, all arrogance, all individualism beside the manger; whoever remains lowly and lets God alone be high; whoever looks at the child in the manger and sees the glory of God precisely in his lowliness. -- Deitrich Bonhoeffer, I Want to Live These Days with You, p. 377

Mary gets it. She really does. Even though she’s important enough in the timeline of the Savior that God would send Gabriel, God’s own messenger, to visit her, Mary sees what is truly important. She says, in essence, “Even though God has done great things for me, it’s not about me at all. It’s all about God and what God has done, is doing, and will do. And I want to help.”

Unfortunately, in today’s world, we often expect everything to revolve around “me.” And if things aren’t all about me, then I need to make them about me. If it doesn’t benefit me, then what good is it. If it causes me inconvenience, then why in the world would I do it? And, God forbid, it actually costs me something – time, money, energy, perceived freedom – those are mine and mine alone. Why would I give any of those up for someone else?

But Mary. Innocent Mary. What was Mary willing to do for God, for all of humanity? Here she was, a girl of probably about 14 years of age. Just been told by an angel that she will have a child out-of-wedlock. Her best hope would be that she would be disowned by her family and her future husband-to-be, Joseph. Ostracized by society. Have to leave her home, her family, her friends. And that’s her best option. More likely, she would be taken outside of town and stoned to death by those same “friends” and “family.”

And in the midst of all that, with a cloud of uncertainty headed towards her, she says “It’s not about me… Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

What if Mary had said “no”? What if she said “I don’t think this is a good thing for me. I think I’ll pass.” Sound like the silly ramblings of a tired pastor? Maybe. But we say similar things all the time. We tell God no when we think of ourselves before we consider the needs of our neighbor. Mary’s “no” might have changed the course of all human history – that’s something that we could debate for a long time. But our “yes’ or “no” in the face of the needs of this world is just as devastating – it shows the world what resides in our hearts. A “yes” shows the world that a Christian is truly about loving their neighbor. Serving God and changing the world. A “no” shows the world that Christians are all about themselves and that “I’m the most important thing in my life.”

What would it take for us to be more like Mary? I don’t think much. I think that it only takes a heart that is open to God’s will and a willingness to follow wherever God is leading. It needs us to say that there is something more important in this world than me. It requires openness to justice and a passion for love. “I’ll do it because God has done so much for me.” And it all starts with a few simple words, Mary’s words: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

God’s peace,
Pastor Doug