Christianity Today has put together a digital Advent Devotional entitled Living Hope that includes daily devotional readings, weekly Bible studies and a Bible reading guide.
Ken Shigematsu, senior pastor of Tenth Church, was invited to write one of the readings; it is re-posted here with his permission.
Mary is incredibly famous today, but there was a time when she was completely unknown. She was just a teenage peasant girl from Nazareth, a town which some scholars say may have had fewer than 100 people.
Like her peers, Mary was probably illiterate. Given her station in life, she would have been expected to marry humbly – a poor, working-class boy. Their family would likely often go hungry because there wasn’t enough to make ends meet.
When the God of the universe decided to choose his mother, he didn’t approach a young woman of wealth and status. Instead, God approached an illiterate peasant girl from a very small town. Jesus’ genealogy (Matthew 1:1-17) shows us that we don’t have to be of a particular race or be an “insider” to be part of God’s story. And when we look at Mary, we see that we don’t have to be rich, from a big city, highly educated or important in society. We can be dirt ordinary and yet be part of this everlasting story.
What is the one qualification that God seems to require? When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her, You’re about to become the mother of God, Mary opened up her heart and said, Yes, may it be to me as you have said. To become part of this story and to experience God birthing his life in us, all we need is a yes. We need to consent to the work of the Holy Spirit inside us.
Recently, I’ve been praying something called the Welcoming Prayer. I pray it like this: Holy Spirit, I agree to your work in me and I let go of my desire for security, for affection and esteem, for power and control. This was the essence of Mary’s yes to God. She let go of security, affection and esteem, and power and control.
As a result, her reputation would be stained for the rest of her life. She’d one day see her adult son mocked, spat upon, beaten and nailed to a Roman cross. It would feel like a dagger piercing her heart (Luke 2:35). Yet she said yes.
May we, like Mary, pray, “Holy Spirit, I say yes to your work in me.” May God’s life be birthed in us. May we too play our part in the grand and everlasting story of God.
This article is adapted from a sermon Ken Shigematsu preached on December 25, 2019. Used by permission.
CONTEMPLATE LUKE 1:26-38. What might it look like for you to say yes like Mary? To consent to the work of the Spirit within you? Pray, welcoming God’s work in your life.
Go here to read Advent: Living Hope. Among the other writers of the devotional readings are Fleming Rutledge, John Goldingay, Thabiti Anyabwile, Rich Villodas and Rachel Kang.