Receive: An Advent Meditation
There’s a word that’s been loud in my mind this past week. Receive.
My pastor spoke about it from the pulpit yesterday morning. Richard Rohr wrote about in his lovely Advent devotional this past Thursday. And I’m hearing it in my life right now, over and over.
Receive the gift that God is giving you. Receive it.
This past week has reminded me that God’s good gifts are not always easy. They are often complicated, prickly things that must be held carefully with tender hands. They are often painful and beautiful at the same time. They are unknown. The best gifts God offers us are often the very gifts that have the potential to completely upend our stories, change the direction our lives were going. It hurts to change direction.
Who knew that more clearly than Mary, the young girl who, when confronted with the outlandish announcement from a kindly and frightening angel that she would give birth to the Messiah (though she couldn’t possibly be pregnant) received it in all its wildness, in all its uncertainty.
The angel says, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary says, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Here am I. I learned to pray that phrase long ago as a ten-year-old, when I made an—amazing, I’m sure—rap of the Bible Drill verse I was supposed to memorize in the King James Version. Isaiah 6:8: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Here am I, send me.’”
I learned that verse and never lost its words. Over and over throughout my childhood and adulthood God has asked me to go there again, to take Isaiah’s words as my own. Who will be sent? Who will go? And over and over I have felt the stab of loss in my own chest and answered back, “Here am I.”
Receive the gift.
What did Mary know of the gift she was receiving? What did she know of being a mother? What did she know of the humiliations and uncertainties she would undergo as an unmarried, pregnant woman? What did she know of all that would be asked of her in the years of raising a strangely sensitive God-child? What did she know of the coming loss of her own son when he was still a young man, when she was still living? Receive this, the angel says.
I receive it, Mary says. Here am I.
Of Mary, Richard Rohr says, “There is no mention of any moral worthiness, achievement or preparedness in Mary, only humble trust and surrender. . . Mary does not manage, fix, control or ‘perform’ in any way. She just says ‘yes!’ and brings forth the abundance . . .”
The good, hard gifts don’t usually come with explanation. They don’t come with instructions, or future promises of ease. And still they come and ask us to hold them, to say “Yes!” along with Mary: to receive, not because we know what awaits us, but because we trust the goodness of the One who gives.