The parts of the nativity play were allocated. My daughter was to be a shepherd. She did not want to be a shepherd. She would not be a shepherd, there was not going to be a shepherd! When I consider the meaning of Christmas I remember stories of a young girl becoming pregnant, of Joseph being told to take her as his wife, of shepherds running to Bethlehem, of magi following a star. I am struck by the faith and obedience upon which the event depends. Any of those participants could have turned away and refused to play the part given to them. Then the story would have been different. And if the story had been different then the world would be a different, less hopeful, place. The source of our hope is that in a distant place, in a distant time, a number of ordinary men and women accepted, with obedience and faith, the extraordinary tasks to which they were called.
The Iona Community in Scotland have a hymn which speaks to me of these things. Let me share it with you in the hope that it speaks similarly to you.
No wind at the window, no knock at the door;
no light from the lampstand, no foot on the floor;
no dream born of tiredness, no ghost raised by fear:
just an angel and a woman and a voice in her ear.
‘O Mary, O Mary, don’t hide from my face.
Be glad you’re favoured and filled with God’s grace.
The time for redeeming the world has begun;
and you are requested to mother God’s Son.’
‘ This child must be born that the kingdom might come:
salvation for many, destruction for some;
both end and beginning, both message and sign;
both victor and victim, both yours and divine.’
No payment was promised, no promises made;
No wedding was dated, no blueprint displayed.
Yet Mary, consenting to what none could guess,
Replied with conviction, ‘Tell God I say, “Yes”’.
Thanks be to God when his people say “yes” for then blessings abound.