One of the (many) great privileges of a 'job' like mine is being able to spend time with a range of people as they journey through a range of experiences and life situations. Today has been somewhat representative of those experiences and situations: from catching up with an old friend in a new job; to spending time with some amazing Southsiders; to reflecting on my own journey throughout the past year - the ups, the downs, the successes and the mistakes.
And as I think about all of these things I once again find myself drawn to Mary. Because I have already thought about Mary's radical obedience - but there is so much more to her story. For hers' was not simply a one-off story of this radical obedience, but a life time lived in light of it. You see being a good Jewish girl Mary would almost certainly have had some expectation as to what the messiah was going to be like/do. And as such she (like the disciples still thought even at the beginning of Acts) may well have pictured a political or militaristic leader who was going to literally lead the people of Israel out of the bondage that they endured under Roman rule.
Yet as we know, Jesus confounded the Jewish expectations of what the messiah was going to be like - and in the process one can only assume His mothers also. And yet come what looked like the end of the story - different as it may have become from her expecations the day that Gabriel visited - there she is: at the foot of the cross; mourning for and supporting her son.
All of this by way of saying: I wonder what Mary's response to the angel might have been had she known everything that was going to happen? Because it's easy to say yes to God when things seem good and a calling seems exciting. But what happens when it gets hard? What happened when the glamour of carrying God Himself met the harsh reality of a world that rejected and despised Him?
Quite clearly for Mary there were moments of joy and treasured memories; but other times too where she might even have tried to derail the messianic mission when it seemed to get tough or like He'd lost the plot. But the calling of God, as Mary's life and experience demonstrates, does not mean an easy path nor a guarantee of a happy outcome - in this life at least.
As I journey through advent 2013, and as I reflect on not only all that I see going on around me but in my own life too, I find Mary's story encouraging and challening: and I find myself wondering if, as she was forced to, I am truly ready to accept all that the call of God on my life might mean for me...
How about you?