Fuller

Ultimate Availability

December 13, 2021 • Life for Leaders

Scripture – Luke 1:38 (NRSV)

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Focus

Advent is a season for waiting upon God. But, following Mary’s example, it’s also a time to offer ourselves to God more fully. Though we won’t be called to give birth to the Son of God, the Lord has things for each of us to do. He calls us to devote our lives to his purposes and practices. May God give us the grace to respond to this call in the way of Mary: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.

Devotion

"Michiel

Michiel van Coxcie, Annunciation, 1580s Oil on panel, 30 x 39 cm The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

Because we’re so familiar with the biblical story of the birth of Jesus, it can be hard for us to enter into the experience of the main characters. Yet, if we do this, not only will we understand these people more deeply, but we also will be ready for a deeper encounter with God.

Consider the case of Mary in Luke 1. We have already watched as the angel Gabriel appeared to her, telling her that she would soon become pregnant with the

Son of God who would reign over God’s kingdom forever (1:31-33). Mary’s responded by wondering how this could be so since she was a virgin (1:34). Gabriel answered by explaining that Mary would become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit (1:35).

Now, at this point, we Christians might not show much empathy for Mary. We’re so familiar with this narrative, not only from many Christmas celebrations, but also from reciting the Apostles Creed. We affirm that Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.” So, for us there’s no surprise in Gabriel’s announcement to Mary.

But if we put ourselves in her sandals for a moment, we can begin to imagine what might have been going on in her head and heart. Jewish women who had sexual relations outside of marriage were, according to the law, worthy of death. (Remember, for example, Jesus’s encounter with the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11.) But even if it was unlikely that Mary would be executed, she would be seen by all as a sinful woman. Who would believe her story about a virginal conception, after all? She would surely live in shame the rest of her life. Perhaps even more painfully, her fiancé, Joseph, being a righteous man, would most probably end their relationship. Would he believe Mary’s “impossible” story about the angel and her pregnancy?

Mary had every right to be deeply concerned. It wouldn’t have been surprising if she had responded to Gabriel rather like Moses responded to God at the burning bush. And I certainly wouldn’t criticize her for doing so. But that’s not what she did. Rather, she said to the angel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

This is, for me, one of the most moving verses in all of Scripture. I’m blown away by Mary’s response of ultimate availability. She exemplifies utter trust, utter willingness, utter submission to God’s will. She’s willing to accept whatever may come. Even as I write this, I feel a deep yearning in my heart to be more like Mary. I can be so afraid and hesitant when God “messes” with my life. I want to understand everything in advance. I like feeling as if I’m in control. Offering myself freely and fully to God doesn’t not come naturally or easily to me.

But I am working on it, each day. Several months ago, I came upon a prayer written by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century A.D. It’s called the Suscipe, which is the first word of the prayer in Latin. Suscipe means “take” or “receive.” Anyway, here’s the prayer I’ve been saying for the last several months:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

I confess that I struggle to say this prayer without certain reservations. Am I really willing to give everything to the Lord, acknowledging that it’s all his anyway? My honest answer is: Yes and no. But I trust that the Spirit of God will continue to grow both my trust in God and my willingness to be like Mary, offering all that I am to God.

Advent is a season for waiting upon God. But, following Mary’s example, it’s also a time to offer ourselves to God more fully. Though we won’t be called to give birth to the Son of God, the Lord has things for each of us to do. He calls us to devote our lives to his purposes and practices. May God give us the grace to respond to this call in the way of Mary: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Reflect

How do you think Mary felt when she heard the angel’s news?

Have you ever sensed that God was calling you to something disruptive or scary? If so, how did you feel? How did you respond?

What helps you to be more available to God?

Act

When you pray the Suscipe below, pay attention to what’s going on with you. How do you feel? What are you thinking? What might you learn about yourself from praying this prayer?

Pray

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Prayer on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: St Ignatius Loyola: Teach Us, Good Lord, to Toil (Prayer)


Subscribe to Life for Leaders

Sign up to receive a Life for Leaders devotional each day in your inbox. It’s free to subscribe and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Tags

AdventLuke

One thought on “Ultimate Availability

  1. DiAnne says:

    For me, I do take it as it comes as I know from Scripture God is for me and all things work together for good.

    He’s not chastening us like we read about in Jeremiah as we also read there he will form a new covenant where he will remember our sins no more and write his law on our hearts.

    So of course we are hemmed in more than we think is necessary however God knows us better than we know ourselves so things can seem a little unsettling at times.

    I’ve never had too bad a situation but that God revealed himself more to me and his grace was greater during those times.

    One example is when my mom was in the hospital in Arroyo Grande the week before Memorial Day.

    I talked my husband into leaving a day earlier as I saw clouds forming and wanted to beat the rain.

    Well, if we had gone up Friday as planned I would not have held my mother in my arms as she took her last breath.

    The grace God gave me then comforted me in ways that made the pain of losing her bearable.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.