Yes to God's Yes

This week I was introduced to a gorgeous poem by Denise Levertov, called "Annunciation," that I carried throughout my week.  It suggests that we all have annunciations in our lives.  Moments of divine announcement that invite us to be part of something more.
That’s hard to imagine in the midst of daily traffic and business meetings, home improvements and political fiascos, global suffering and parenting challenges.  That we are invited by the divine into something extraordinary?
But imagine this is true. (Because it is).
And imagine for a moment how we might greet these annunciations.

Lots of people, this poem suggested, do great and valuable things in life without any awareness of or appreciation for it. They go through life unaffected, oblivious to the conspiracy of redemption unfolding around, and indeed even sometimes through, their own lives.
Others come to their annunciation moments with definite awareness, and so also fear and trembling at the terrible toll that risking will likely take on their equilibrium.  They back slowly away from the moment of change and choice, turn away and sit back down in their perpetual risklessness, preferring the delusion of safety, the illusion of inertia, to reckless trust.  And those people don’t get to be part of the marvelous things beckoning them to life.

But Mary.  She was open and ready when God’s Yes came.
God said, I am about to do the unfathomable.  You, Mary, will be in this with me.
And she met the moment.

What is it to say Yes to God’s yes?
To meet your annunciations when they come?
To allow yourself to take them in - to be taken in - with bewilderment, curiosity, willingness, and courage?

How can this be? Mary asks, explaining to her celestial visitor the biological impossibility of the thing he is announcing. 
But impossibility is how God always chooses to come.
So the angel tells her about Elizabeth.
He could have told her about any of the barren wombs or stuttering spokespeople, dead seas or impenetrable walls, invincible armies or lions’ dens, enormous giants, weak-minded monarchs, messed up protagonists, or hopeless, impossible situations through which God had been bringing salvation and hope to the world since the world began. But he doesn’t look back for his stories.  Instead, he says, Right now, even while we are speaking, God is doing this impossible thing.
And then the angel tells her about old Elizabeth, whose prayers had dried up, who is even now already bearing this great in-breaking of salvation.  
Nothing is impossible for God, Gabriel answers Mary.
And Mary says Yes to God’s Yes.
She steps into the story.

Meanwhile, the moment Mary is meeting with the angel, hearing of this thing that she will be part of (that will definitely destroy her equilibrium), Elizabeth, the one who was too old to bear children, is at home, five months further along in this divine collaboration.
God has taken away my disgrace! She had said when the miracle began. Even so, she still hasn’t made her condition known to the neighbors, preferring to keep her secret safe under wraps while she sorts it all out.

Mary answers the angel, Yes. Here am I. Let it be as you say.
And the first thing she does, as soon as she can arrange it, is to go to Elizabeth, a week’s journey away. Her first move in this Yes-saying, God-bearing life is to go be with someone who is also living this reality, someone who is part of the impossible too.

This is the joy week of Advent.
Joy is the miraculous in-breaking of God that bypasses logic and reaches you at your deepest self, filling you with delight, abundance, enough-overflowing. It’s when you touch transcendence, or rather, transcendence touches you. And for a moment, if only a moment, you are complete, and part of the completeness of things.

Joy is gut-splitting, thigh slapping laughter, and eye-shining, heart-swelling gratitude.  Joy is clutter-clearing, laser focus on deep beauty and transcendent love that most often comes, paradoxically, in the midst of profound pain and suffering.  Or joy meets us unexpectedly in the simplicity and utter ordinariness of tiny fingers wrapped around your own or the sigh you know as deeply as your own.  Or joy sweeps over us in those experiences beyond words, like soaring music, penetrating silence, or nature’s majesty that takes your breath away completely for a moment.  Joy recognizes God’s eternal Yes and then our whole being, body and soul, directly responds back, Yes! Oh my God, Yes!

When the door to Elizabeth’s largely silent and hidey hole home opens to the road-weary Mary, and Mary calls into the dimly lit room, “Greetings favored one!,” that little prophet in-utero flips upside down and thrashes around with joy.  And transcendence touches Elizabeth, and she is filled with delicious and complete knowing. 
“How is it that the mother of God comes to see me?!” she exclaims in joy, doubling over in laughter and tears. “How blessed is she who believes what God promises and acts on it! Here you are!”

Then contagious joy explodes and embraces them all, and then Mary knows too!  Her heart is thrown open and she sings out the great hymn of God’s eternal Yes, the Magnificat,:

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

And for the next three months the two women share life side by side. They stew together in this new reality.  And within and between them grows the promise for all the world, until Elizabeth delivers the baby who will grow up to be the announcer of God’s coming in.   
Because it is the electricity of our belonging to God and belonging to each other, Joy is not a solo act. When this most astounding of things is about to happen, it must be shared.
And because God is about to enter in to share it all with us, sharing it with each other is how it all happens.

In the midst of whatever other questions and worries and wondering they bear, they do not bear any of it alone.  Their fears about the world and the future, their struggles with the daily grind, their ins and outs and ups and downs of life and death that often feel like the biggest and realest things, they share these.  And together they watch the slow, mysterious in-breaking of the divine right in the midst of it all. God is here, God is coming, and we get to be part of it!

They were, before such a thing existed, Church.
This pregnant elderly woman, her old, mute husband, (let’s not forget him), and the unwed teenage mother who showed up on their doorstep were the Body of Christ even as his body was taking form in their midst.
These three said Yes to God’s Yes, and they shared it with each other.
They said: I see you in this, please see me in this.
God has met me, how has God met you? 
I am part of what God is doing. You are part of what God is doing.
I have glimpsed what is to come. Tell me where you’ve glimpsed what is to come.
This is Church – this posse of unlikely people saying Yes to God’s Yes for the world and sharing it with each other.

Today, on this third Sunday of Advent, we will baptize little Andrew into this posse of unlikely people who say Yes to God’s Yes and share it with each other.  We will lift up our hearts, and this little one, to God, and recognize and receive God’s YES over us.
God’s Yes is for the whole world and everyone in it. But when we baptize Andrew, God’s Yes gets spoken over him specifically, and poured onto him deliberately, and pressed into him by our prayers and promises. And the Spirit of God meets us here with annunciation,  and invites Andrew into a life of reckless trust, to welcome God’s Yes.
No matter what Nos he shouts back to the heavens in the years to come, no matter what Nos the world tries to dismantle him with, no matter what Nos make him feel alone or afraid, or try to convince him that death is the biggest truest thing, the Yes of God that we receive over Andrew today is the first and final word of his life, the word of truth and hope and love that can never be rescinded. 
And we will tell him of this as he grows. You belong to God, Andrew. And you belong to the people around you, and to this precious world God has claimed for love.  Love your God. Love your neighbor. Live your Yes to God’s Yes. 
And when he forgets, like each of us frequently does, we will remind him, and ask him to remind us too, that our belonging, our being, begins in God’s love and will return to God’s love, and in between, living is filled with opportunities beyond measure to say Yes to God’s yes. Every. Single. Day. And we will pray for courage for Andrew to face his annunciations, when God invites him into the great Yes, for Andrew to meet those moments and receive the invitations. 

God came, God comes. In a baby, who came into the world like every other baby, but was God with us.
This is why we do this thing today, and make this impossible claim that that love is the power that transforms everything, that our lives are part of a great unfolding. Because God did this, Andrew, and you and I, are drawn into the story. Like Mary and Elizabeth and Zechariah too, we invited by the divine into something extraordinary.
And we help each other notice our annunciations and say Yes to God’s Yes when we share it with each other:
I see you in this, please see me in this.
God has met me, how has God met you? 
I am part of what God is doing. You are part of what God is doing.
I have glimpsed what is to come. Tell me where you’ve glimpsed what is to come.
How blessed are those who believe what God has promised and act on it!

Whatever else this week brings, whatever weariness or anger or frustration or hope, may it also bring flashes of joy, tastes of what is and will be.
And when God’s Yes comes to us, may we be open and ready.

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