God, If You Exist . . .
Through the years the painters of the annunciation have tried to capture her. Mary. They must have wondered; Why did God choose her? What was she like? A striking beauty? Plainer but with an inner light? How could they capture something that exceptional? How could they get it right?
Annunciation artists, for the most part, went with beauty. And haloes. The artists seem to gravitate to palettes of paleness, pastels and metaphorical purity. Mostly they capture her gentleness and saintliness. Their depictions of her receiving the angel Gabriel are some of my favorite art.
There she is, eyes downcast, hands open, sitting in submission, receiving some of the most piercing and scandalous news ever. There was no precedent for it. Never before or since has a woman heard this: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you," the angel Gabriel announced, "and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy -- the Son of God." The words of Gabriel describe nothing less than the virgin birth of Christ.
And in words so familiar they have lost their shock she said, “Be it done unto me according to thy word.”
In other words she said, “Whatever.” “I trust you completely.” “I’m yours, no limits.” “I’m in 100%.”
What a bold response! I can’t help but think this wasn’t the first time Mary said yes to God. Perhaps she took baby steps of faith that equipped her to trust him so completely that when the most unthinkable request of God was asked of her . . . she was receptive.
But what if the artists got it wrong? What if she was more the initiator than tradition teaches. When I ponder Mary I think she longed for God. She wanted him to show himself to her. More than anything, she wanted to walk with him in the day and talk to him at night. She reached for him. She welcomed him and he came to her.
Most of us struggle with faith, not to mention a faith like Mary’s. A friend of mine told me recently, “I wish I could believe in God.” Well, faith is a gift. You and I can’t think it so. But, if we sense you were made for more than this existence, if a vague longing is unquenched in our spirits, start here with a first step. Try this:
“God, if you exist, I give you permission to show yourself to me.”
Baby steps. Openness to him showing himself to us just because we asked.
“God I give you permission to show yourself to me. Be it done to me according to thy word.”
And when he comes to us this Christmas . . . as he wants to, well, then we'll know Christmas as never before and ponder that wonder in our hearts until our last breath and beyond.