Then Mary said, “here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Imagine thirteen-year-old Mary hearing from the messenger that she would have a child, conceived out of wedlock, who would grow up to be the messianic king. Those words would have made it appear, from her vantage point, that the child she was to bear would be a direct threat to both King Herod and the Roman Empire. If the child’s identity were found out, then the child, and she, would be killed. Herod had already killed two of his own children, along with his favorite wife, because he believed they dreamed of taking over his throne. Viewed in this light, we can see that the messenger had brought Mary a dangerous request from God.
But it didn’t stop with the obvious danger of giving birth to a son who was to be king. There was also the matter of the child being conceived outside of wedlock. The law commanded that if a woman engaged to be married was found pregnant by another man, she was to be put to death. God’s request to Mary was dangerous indeed.
Then there were Mary’s hopes and dreams for her own life. She was to marry the carpenter Joseph. But now, how would this work? He would not believe her story- how could he? God’s request would mean the end of their engagement. People in her hometown would discover she was pregnant, and she would be considered promiscuous or worse. Add to this the fact that Mary was being asked to give birth, no small request in a day and time before modern medicine. Women died giving birth.
Gabriel, on behalf of God, was asking a great deal of this frightened young girl. William Barclay captures the message of this scene for all of us when he says, “the piercing truth is that God does not choose a person for ease and comfort and selfish joy but for a task that will take all that head and heart and hand can bring to it.”
When was the last time you took a risk to pursue what you believed God was calling you to do? When was the last time you did something that made you just a bit afraid because you believed it was the will of God?
Kristen was a senior in college when she felt God calling her to join the Peace Corps and more to Swaziland to help teach children whose parents had died of HIV/AIDS. At the age of twenty-two, she moved to the small African nation and began her work. The job was hard and filled with challenges and not a little danger. But ask her today how she feels about her time in Swaziland, and she’ll tell you it was among the greatest blessings of her life.
If god called you to Swaziland, would you go? What about to the heart of your own city? Mary’s response to God’s dangerous call is one of the most beautiful statements in all the Bible. This young girl simply said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” This is a prayer short enough to memorize and important enough to say again and again.
Lord, I hear of opportunities to serve others, or your call to stand up for what is right, or your invitation to give of myself; yet sometimes I am afraid. Forgive me for allowing fear, or my desire for safety and comfort, to keep me from doing your will. Help me to hear your call and to be willing to step out of my comfort zone in order to do your work. “Here I am, servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Amen.