The Best Yes (Christmas Eve evening)
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | December 24, 2017
Read Luke 1:26 – 38
This passage of scripture from Luke’s gospel was the subject of the readings this week in the devotional, “These Days: Daily Devotions for Living by Faith.”
Each day, the author reflected on select verses within the passage and covered a variety of subjects, including: Expecting God; New Life May Confuse Us; Letting Go of Fear; Growing into Fullness; Great Things in Store for Us; Our Barren Places and Acceptance and Peace.
It is interesting to me to see how many different threads can be woven together within a particular passage of scripture. But as I read and re-read this passage each day, I kept coming back to the same thought – THE BEST YES…
As I shared last week, “THE BEST YES” is actually the title of an audiobook that I recently listened to by a woman named Lysa TerKeurst. But it seemed like a fitting subject for our consideration as we explore the Gospel reading together this evening.
Now, as we look at this text, we find the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary, a young woman who was engaged to be married to Joseph, a man described as being one of David’s descendants.
When Gabriel first greeted Mary, the scriptures say that his greeting troubled her. But why should she have been surprised by this greeting? “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Why? Because Mary was young, poor and female. And in that day and age, those were not terms typically used to describe someone who was “highly favored.” If the truth be told, even in this day and age, those terms don’t generally equate with being “highly favored” either.
And yet, Mary was indeed highly favored by God -- so much so, that He had sent His angel Gabriel to give her some extremely good news –
reading from the Message Paraphrase, Gabriel told her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever—no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
But still not convinced, Mary questioned how what the angel had said could come to fruition because she was still a virgin. It was inconceivable to her that she would give birth to a child.
And yet, Gabriel persisted and told her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
And as further proof that what he was telling her was indeed capable of happening, Gabriel told her that her older cousin, Elizabeth, who up until recently had been barren, was now six months pregnant.
Then he offered her these words of reassurance, “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
What could she say to that? How could she debate such a persuasive argument?
She really could not find any way to dispute what Gabriel had declared to her. So, she told him, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
In other words, she surrendered her will and gave THE BEST YES that she could give.
But let me issue this word of caution:
giving THE BEST YES is not some type of inoculation or antidote against trials and tribulations. In fact, quite often, it can be just the opposite.
Mary’s BEST YES in surrendering to God’s will opened the door to rumor, speculation and ridicule from her peers. It also opened the door for her fiancé to consider “putting her away quietly.” And it also opened the door for her Son to be rejected and ultimately murdered.
But Mary’s BEST YES and submission to God’s will also brought hope and redemption into the world.
It was Mary’s BEST YES to the Lord that was the precursor to THE BEST YES that Jesus would later give in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42), which opened the door to our salvation.
Like mother, like Son: “Nevertheless, not my will, but your will be done…”
And that ought to be the lesson to us today -- that even when we are faced with situations that range from the improbable and implausible to the downright impossible, if we surrender our will to God’s will and give Him our BEST YES, mighty and miraculous things can and do happen.
How do I know? How can I say that with any sense of certainty? Because I lived it and continue to live it -- day after day.
Some of you already know the story but I ask your indulgence and pray that you will bear with me at least once more.
The year was 2013 and I had pretty much given up on the idea that God had called me to pastor. In fact, I had even questioned in my journal on October 30th if perhaps I was mistaken in my pursuit with the Search and Call process because nothing had come to fruition after nearly seven years.
But then, the very next day on October 31st, I got a phone call from our Regional Minister saying he wanted to submit my name for consideration as the Interim Pastor of Ledgewood Christian Church in Novelty…
Now I have to be honest, my response to him was not exactly my BEST YES. In fact, it was pretty much just, “Sure, go ahead…” I figured what was the point? It was just going to be another disappointment… And just where in the world was Novelty anyway?
But when I came for the interview just three weeks later, I came with a better YES in my spirit, staying open to the possibilities of what God might yet have in store for me.
And when the call came three days after that (note the significance of 3 days…) offering me the position as Interim Pastor – you can believe, I gave THE BEST YES, I could give.
And seven months to the day after that, when I got the call asking if I would stay on as the fully installed pastor… Well, let’s just say I gave the BESTEST YES that I had.
And the rest as they say is history…
Believe it or not, it will be four years next month since we began collectively giving our BEST YES to the Lord as a church family. And together, we have watched as God has taken the improbable and implausible and done the mighty and the miraculous.
We have witnessed time and again what can happen when we combine our BEST YES with the power of prayer and surrender our will to the Lord.
And with that thought in mind, let us open our hearts as we prepare to share our joys and concerns so that we might be intentional in praying with and for one another -- offering our BEST YES in surrender to the Lord’s will.
PASTORAL PRAYER & LORD’S PRAYER