- Written by Margaret Bernhart
It’s recorded that God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary and coming to her he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus…” And Mary said, “Behold, the bond-slave of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word” (Lk. 1:28-38 NAS).
By saying, “Yes” to God, Mary takes the inevitable path that leads to humiliation and misunderstanding as she submits to the inconceivable will of God. Her tiny womb becomes the incubator for something larger than the whole world. Though Protestantism relegates Mary to the Christmas story and holiday decorations, she has much to teach us about how to surrender to love and endure shame for the hope and glory of incarnation.
Mary would have little idea of the personal cost implicit in her “Yes.” This teenager would suckle and sing to the child-Messiah and then one day watch his body bleed for all humanity. And with the words, “Be it done to me,” the favor of heaven calls Mary to suffer, sacrifice, and live with hope. An internal transformation will take place as her compassion is increased through the labor of seeing her son suffer; a deeper sensitivity to pain will cause her beauty to swell; and as she literally gestates the sacrificial love of the Father, she will become an instrument for showing forth his goodness and mercy.
Incarnation as one author says is “God—ultimate reality, becoming flesh.” All incarnation involves saying, “Yes” and then embracing the narrow road. The manger and a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes is God invading the earth to bring incarnation to our past, present, and future. Certainly, with love’s ultimate reality comes brokenness, the washing of wounds, and like the wise men, the bending of knees—that leads to hearing the sweet melody of heaven.
What does it mean to say “Yes” to God? It is surrender—as we stand at life’s precipices, and leap into the loving arms of Mystery, who makes himself known by coming in human form. Saying, “Yes” is inviting God to invade and incarnate our lives: Yes, in the midst of a lonely marriage devoid of any emotional connection; Yes, when our cherished longings for a child come with the silence and aloofness of autism; Yes, when our heart is hostage to grief as we watch helplessly as a loved one lays dying; and Yes, to desire and dreaming when our dearest longings lay smoldering in the ashes of “no.”
When we say “Yes,” we enter into the hope of what is to come. This Christmas may we hear more clearly the melody of heaven as we, like Mary, live with hearts surrendered to the beauty of incarnation.
May you live in the hope of incarnation.