My sermon for Advent 4 was based on Luke 1:26-38.
To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.
This Advent has brought back to the surface questions about choice for me, specifically Mary's choice to bear the Christ child, and how it relates to my choice to follow my vocation.
I got my call to ministry when I was a teenager, and I said no. I was overcome one night out of nowhere with a feeling of absolute certainty that this is what I was made for...and I said, "Not interested, thanks".
Wouldn't it make a funny Pythonesque sketch if Gabriel has had to ask a few other women first, and Mary was just the first to accept.
Here is what sadly often gets dropped to the wayside when we talk of the Annunciation, and which has been made all the more poignant given the backdrop of the #metoo campaign in recent months: Mary made the choice to bear the Christ child. She was not forced, convinced or coerced in any way. Gabriel and therefore God gave her the option, and after some polite and prudent questions on her part ("How can this be?"), she answers, "I am the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to his word".
Mary made an educated and informed decision, despite the uncertainty of the future, despite the responsibility it brought on her (raising a child is a heck of a responsibility, much less God's child), despite the sure knowledge that it would lift her from what would otherwise be a life of obscurity.
But she chose to follow that path, and far from being a passive thing she did, it was a act of defiance in the context of a society that did not give women too many choices.
Sometimes, I think the world hasn't changed that much since the time of the Nativity: women still have to fight for control of their bodies, refugees are still poorly treated, tyrants still reign, and the poor and marginalized still struggle to fulfill their basic needs.
Over this Advent and Christmas season, I invite you reflect on how giving someone a choice, giving someone a voice is equally a sacred gesture, and an act of defiance.