My sister Katherine has always been really good at job interviews. It doesn’t hurt that she has a really likeable personality, so interviewers tend to like her right away, but it’s more than that. Going into an interview, she doesn’t overthink trying to impress the company, or make herself out to be the best possible fit, or even flatter the interviewer. Instead, she goes into an interview with questions. She wants to know what the job looks like, what the company culture is like, why the interviewer likes working there, things like that. She’s so good at interviews because she knows that’s when she gets the chance to figure out what she’s getting into.
When we’re about to make a really big commitment—like taking on a new job—it’s always important to know what we’re getting into. You want to get some certainty of what’s required and what things will look like if you join the team or take on the project. How hard will it be? Do you have the right skills? Is it worth committing to? And we have these questions all the time—whether it’s a job, or a sport, or an extracurricular team, or moving houses, or getting married, or whatever else. If it’s something important, it’s worth investigating.
Which is exactly what Mary did when she met an angel. She could have been wowed by the magnificent appearance of a heavenly being. She could have been dazzled into accepting Gabriel’s proposal. But this is what I love about the mother of God: she is entirely unperturbed. Everyone else in the Bible sees an angel and the first thing the angel has to say is “don’t be afraid!” But not Mary. Mary saw this fragment of God’s own glory shining like the sun in her living room, and her response to the angel’s message was “you’re gonna have to explain this to me.”
Mary is about the only person I think God could have chosen to bear Christ into the world. It had to be Mary. She was no nonsense, and she wouldn’t take any guff from anyone. She knew what she was about and even God’s own messenger wouldn’t overawe her into doing something that she didn’t want to do. She needed to have the details of what she was expected to do, how it was going to happen, and why she should do it. Far from this image of a meek and mild girl, submissively going along with God’s plan for her life, Mary expected to be in on the plan, to know the details, to be ready for exactly what God intended to do through her. And it’s only after she’s satisfied that she says yes! She was going to team up with God to save the world. She even sang a song about it called the Magnificat!
But it’s not just Mary that God asks to team up with. It’s us, too. God wants us to be partners in this work of saving the world, because God genuinely likes doing things with us. And we’re reminded of this promise to work with God any time there is a baptism, like Vincent’s baptism this morning. I asked Nick and Brooke, along with Nate and Bailey, to make certain promises on Vincent’s behalf. These promises were to live among God’s people, join in worship, learn the faith, read the scriptures, grow in faith and prayer, and live lives that lead to greater trust in God and the kingdom, show others who Christ is by our actions, care for others, and establish God’s justice and God’s peace. Like Mary, we have all gotten the terms of how God plans to work in and through us, and like Mary, we’re all given a chance to decide if we want to team up with God or not.
That’s one of those crazy things that we realize about this God that we all love and worship. God works with us, not despite us. God wants us to be part of this work of salvation, frail and imperfect as we might be. God doesn’t want us to be sidelined zombies who simply do as we’re told and never really take part in the work. Instead, God pours water on our heads and says “now you’re my partner in making the world right!” And we’re part of it, even when we’re not so good at it! We’re part of it when we get it all right too! God loves how we work together, how we struggle toward that vision of hope, how we re-read our baptismal promises each time a new child of God is brought to the water and told they are marked with the cross of Christ forever.
And let’s face it, working with us is frustrating. They say if you put two Christians in a room together, you’ll get at least three opinions on how God is at work. We’re like herding cats. But the thing about herding cats is that if you chase them, they’ll scatter. But if you’re patient, if you get them to trust you, they’ll follow you wherever you go. Well, God is patient. God takes the time to let us grow in faith and love, to learn what our role in this plan of salvation is, to ask question and give feedback, to question and wonder and expect answers. God sees all of our varied opinions, our disagreements on what God is doing and how God is doing it, how we argue over what exactly our mission might be, how we fall back so easily on our sinful ways, and God patiently comes to us again. God leads us, with wisdom and hope and persistence, until we get it. Until we’re satisfied, and we say “yes, I’ll save the world with you!”
So in this, the last Sunday of Advent, let’s remember Mary’s persistence to know what she was getting into. Let’s also imitate her pluck and her no-nonsense approach to God’s will. And let’s look to the whole reason we’re called together, as a congregation, a church, as the Body of Christ in the world: God is saving the world through Jesus, and God is doing it with us. God is calling on us to act in this time of waiting, to prepare the way of the Lord, to let the Spirit build up the kingdom in our midst even while we wait for Christ to come again and finish it all up. Remember your baptismal promises, the way that God is calling you to save the world now, and do them.
Love others. Pray in times of hardship and times of joy. Read your Bible and be inspired. Speak out for justice. Protect the weak. Listen to those silenced. Worship with your fellow Christians in person or online or over the radio.
Save the world with God.
This is what you signed up for.
Thanks be to God. Amen.