By The Rev. Canon Pam Hyde
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”Luke 1:35, 37-38.
I often wonder if I would have had the presence of mind as a barely pubescent young girl of maybe twelve or thirteen to respond the way Mary did to such a surprising, perplexing and unexpectedly direct call from God to bear his son. What was it that allowed her to say yes?
When the angel Gabriel said to Mary, “You will conceive and bear a son who will be called the Son of the Most High,” if I were she I probably would have said, “I don’t think I’m the one God wants. Please tell him he should choose someone else.” But Mary trusted God and his messenger. She trusted enough to say, “Here am I.” I am your servant, Lord. I believe that when you put your trust in me, the only response I can have is to put all my trust in you.
If a young, vulnerable, inexperienced, poor girl from the nowhere town of Nazareth in Galilee can have the presence and the trust in God to say, “Yes, Lord, here am I, ready to do what you ask,” can’t we do the same?
God entrusts us all with great gifts — and he does it daily. He entrusts us with the hearts and lives of others. He entrusts us with the love he gives us and asks us to share with our neighbors. He entrusts us with the earth that he created and all life on it. God chooses us, just as he chose Mary. How do we respond? How do we care for what has been entrusted to us?
Mary was called to be the theotokos, the God-bearer, and was entrusted with the divine Christ child. Through her, God became incarnate, taking human form. And she lived a life of caring for that gift. We, too, are entrusted with a gift of God’s incarnation — the world that came into being through the Word. From nothing — ex nihilo — the Creator gave material form to light, water, land, sun, moon, stars, plants, trees, fruit, birds, serpents, cattle, fish, and every kind of wild beast, as we hear in the Genesis creation story. And throughout the earth we see God reflected in his creation. God the Creator is the father of all creation, and all of creation are his children. God chose to reveal God’s Self in his creation, and entrusted the care of that first incarnation — that first making of flesh — to us, just as God chose to reveal God’s Self in human form in Jesus and entrusted that God-bearing process to Mary. Can we, like Mary, trust God and say, “Yes, Lord, here am I”?
Unfortunately, we have not treated the whole of creation as the beloved community. We’ve failed to see the Earth as our kin. Instead, as one confession of sin against God’s creation says, “We have walked heavily on [God’s] earth, overused and wasted its resources, taken for granted its beauty and abundance, and treated its inhabitants unjustly, holding future generations hostage to our greed.”1 But the task is not impossible. The angel Gabriel assured the young Mary that “nothing will be impossible with God,” and we know in our hearts that this is indeed the truth.
And so as we prepare ourselves for Christmas, a time when the impossible is made possible, this is a time to reflect on how, with God’s help, we can engage in bringing about a new relationship with the earth. The way we’ve done things no longer works, and we seek for new ways. When we’re able to say, “Let it be with me according to your word, Lord,” we become midwives of God’s new creation. We resolve to keep and conserve the earth as God desires and intends. We cultivate new eyes to see God in creation. And we help others, through our words and deeds, to also see the Creator reflected in all creation. We don’t need to be extraordinarily gifted to do this. All we need to do is be willing to say, “Here am I. I’m not perfect. Maybe I can’t do it all. I may not even know how I’ll do it, but I’m a yes.”
1A Confession of Sin against God’s Creation in “Liturgical Materials for Honoring God in Creation,” The Book of Occasional Services 2018, p. 300, accessed at https://www.episcopalchurch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/01/lm_book_of_occasional_services_2018.pdf.
The Rev. Canon Pam Hyde is the Canon for Creation Care in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. This reflection was adapted from a sermon she delivered at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Tucson, AZ on December 20, 2020.