Now, as many of you know, I love shoes. I really do. In fact, during my six months serving you in this church, my shoes have been a topic of conversation on more than one occasion. A few weeks ago someone asked me about why I wear such tall heals on Sunday morning. Well if my 5 foot 2 inches is not an obvious give away I am not sure what else is. None the less, they said, “you know, you do not really wear preacher shoes.” Now I am not sure what that means but I know I do not want to wear the shoes that Bill wears on a Sunday morning. Mary, who is with child traveled in what I am sure were a torn and dusty pair of modest sandals to go and travel to be with her friend Elizabeth at Elizabeth and Zachariah’s home. I am sure this poor girl from Judea did not have the newest Runway quality pair of Prada pumps but I want us to take a moment and walk with her in her shoes. I want us to place ourselves in Mary’s shoes
One of my favorite television shows is “the Golden Girls”, which in case any of you are wondering this television show still airs on the Hallmark channel each night. Sophia, in this show often tells charming stories from the old world which all begin, “Picture it, Sicily 1939. A young girl….” and then the story continues. So, in channeling Sophia I want you to join me with this story as we walk a bit in Mary’s shoes.
Picture it. A small town in the backwoods of the Judean hill country. 1 B.C. A young, frightened girl travels to visit an old friend who can offer advice on an unlikely predicament. Mary, pregnant, frightened, and unmarried goes quickly to visit an old minister’s wife by the name of Elizabeth. She needs comfort, peace, and the warm heart of an old friend. She thinks, “maybe Elizabeth will understand, maybe she will understand my fear, my worry, and my awe.” Mary, pregnant with the savior of the world, is subject to much ridicule. She is young, unmarried, pregnant, and is great danger of death by stoning if her secret pregnancy is found out. So she travels to safety. She travels to the Judean Hill country—the backwoods of the area. There is nothing glamorous about this area and here no one will be able to find her. In the Judean hill country, she is safe. There is among friends. Elizabeth, a mother figure to Mary, understands. Elizabeth, along with Mary, is experiencing a bit of a miracle herself. Both of these women are in awe of the Lord Almighty and the mighty ways that God is working in their midst. These women are unlike candidates to be the individuals used by the Lord. Both women come from relatively humble backgrounds, they are not wealthy, they do not have an abundance of resources. Mary is too young and Elizabeth is too old. They are not likely candidates to be used by God. Many expected the birth of the savoir to come in greatness. To come in glory. Many expected for the mother of the Savoir to be a prominent queen, not a humble and scared unmarried child, with dusty sandals, which are torn from the journey to the backwoods of Judah. Mary is an unlikely candidate.
How often has God called us to do something and how often have we responded “but I am not good enough, holy enough, skilled enough, old enough, young enough.” How often have we asked God “are you sure, you want me, me to do that?” Not someone prominent, not someone great or accomplished BUT you want me to do this? God are you sure? We often seem like the unlikely candidate. We often seem too insignificant… but God looks past what we see in ourselves and sees as we truly are. We just have to be available.
When I worked at the Wesley Foundation in Auburn there was a young woman who felt like God was calling her to go into ordained ministry. Unlike many people when they are called into ministry, this young woman did not make excuses. She did not say “I am not good enough, I am not smart enough, I am not compassionate enough…” No, she made herself open to the call that God had placed on her life. She made herself available. She felt like an unlikely candidate to serve the Lord, but did not let her questions get in the way of God’s call. She accepted God’s call on her life. She did not run, she did not question. She thought she was an unlikely person to serve God. She was young, she had been told by multiple people that God could not use her. She was too young, she was a woman, she was not educated enough…but instead of listening to them she listened to God. She allowed God to have a much greater impact on her life than many of us often do. Although she viewed herself an unlikely candidate to serve God in ministry, God showed her that she had been given talents and gifts that can be used in ministry with God’s people.
Last night, I watched “Evan Almighty” on television. Since I started to work with the youth ministry, I have found myself looking more closely at movies to see if they would be a good candidate for a movie night, bus trip, or other youth function. Evan Baxter, a junior congressman from New York seems like an unlikely candidate. He does not seem like someone God would be interested in using for much of anything. He is selfish, conceded, and arrogant… But again God often looks past what we see and sees a person’s heart. God has asks him to build an ark, similar to that in the familiar Biblical story of Noah and the flood. This comedy is humorous and at times far-fetched but at one specific time in the movie the point is made very clear. When asked by a reported “How do you know God has called you?” Evan responds, “God calls all of us.” Yes, God calls all of us, even the most unlikely candidate.
Like Mary, and Evan, and that young woman in Auburn, we have all been called to serve God in ministry…. And it is never too late to respond and say “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” All of God’s creation is worthy to serve God with honest and willing hearts. Even if we think we are an unlikely candidate, God will use to to the Lord’s glory.
With Elizabeth, Mary praised God in the hill country of Judea. She was the most unlikely of candidates to serve God, to serve as the mother of God. She was scared, pregnant, young, and an unlikely candidate. I am not sure if any of us in this sanctuary this morning can adequately understand what she was going though even if we try to walk in her shoes. But in the midst of all of this, in the midst carrying the child that would Redeem the world…..Mary praised God.
Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel.”
Although she was scared, although she was in an unlikely candidate, although she was young, pregnant, and unmarried…. Mary praised God. Mary took the task of carrying the Son of God, the one who would redeem us, the one who would save us…. And Mary praised God!
Each of us here can give excuses about why we are not fit to serve, about why we are not able to serve. Maybe we think we are too old, maybe we think we are too young, maybe we think we are not good enough, maybe we look at all the places we have messed us and say “God could not use me.” That is far from the truth. None of us are unlikely candidates. None of us are unworthy to serve the God that calls us continually.
A few weeks ago we began our journey of Advent. On a Sunday night we gathered in this building. God called us to reach out to those in our community and we responded with eagerness. We worked on over 500 projects that will share the love of God with those in our community. Our youth loaded trolleys and traveled to Prattville Health and Rehab to deliver the door hanging Christmas trees. College students received packages to remind them of the love they feel in this place even though they are far from home. We wrote and mailed cards to soldiers deployed over seas. Over the past few weeks you have brought beautifully wrapped presents in by the load. This church has provided over 60 children with gifts to open on Christmas morning. God has called us, all of us. Even the most seemingly unlikely candidates. We just have to respond.
We have to say “yes” like Mary did. We have to walk in Mary’s shoes. Let us respond “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” God uses us all, all of us, Even the most unlikely candidates, we are all called by God in some manner. So as we journey to Christmas Eve, let us put on Mary’s torn and dusty shoes, let us listen to God, look to see where God is calling all of us, and respond with “my Spirit rejoices in God my savior!”