The Suspense of Mary’s Yes

How a courageous response echoes through eternity

In Luke chapter 1, we are presented with a beautiful account of how the angel came to Mary, how she heard him, and how she responded in courage: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” The words contained here should fill every faithful reader with awe and wonder, but above all with gratitude. These few verses in Luke are one of the great hinges—or momentous turning points—of the whole Bible. They are an answer to that early tragic turning point in Genesis: the moment of Eve’s disobedience.

Eve’s choice had terrible consequences for all of us. Her yes to the serpent foreclosed and diminished our true humanity—though of course, the serpent had promised just the opposite! But if Eve turned her back on God, and turned all of us with her, then Mary turns to face him willingly, and her courageous yes to God welcomes Jesus into the world. In Jesus every person may now choose, if they wish, to receive God’s welcome. His welcome extends both to the fullness of life here on earth, even with all its limitations, and into eternal life with him.

Our God is the God of freedom and love, and he will not force himself on anyone. Instead, he waits courteously for our assent, for our yes to his love. As we read these verses, we almost hold our breaths and reenter the drama of that moment: God offers to come into the world as our savior, and Mary, at this moment, speaks for all of us. What will she say? Will she offer her whole life to be made new, to be changed forever? Or will she shy away from the burden?

We should sense an awesome hush, an agony of suspense, between verses 37 and 38, and then as we hear Mary’s response, we should feel great relief and rejoicing. …

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