“Why” is one of our standard childhood questions. Truth be told, the further along in life the more “why” questions we may have. Why is the word “abbreviation” so long? Why do we call what doctors do “practice?” Why is there no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger? You get the idea.
Numerous “why” questions arise when we reflect on the characters of the nativity. Joseph would have had “why now” questions. The shepherds must have wondered, “why us?” The angel Gabriel, receiving a message for Mary, could have thought, “why her? She is no queen; there’s no royalty in her blood. Why a Jewish peasant girl with a crush on a carpenter named Joe?”
Most of all, I like to dwell on Mary’s implied thoughts. In the Luke text she “wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Reading between the lines we hear her wonder, “Why me?”
The blessing of being chosen
As we read Mary’s thoughts and recorded words from Luke, we catch the positive aspect of being chosen—the blessing.
If you have been chosen for anything, great or small, you know the inspiration it can bring. There is often a rush of excitement or a renewed sense of worth in knowing that out of a few, or perhaps out of many, you were chosen. Being chosen may be by chance, as in a sweepstakes, the result of an election, as in a classroom, or the thoughtful choice of one person, as by a supervisor. However it comes, to be chosen is a blessing and brings with it a sense of honor.
What we learn from teenage Mary is that the proper response to being chosen is praise. As we glance ahead to the words of her song beginning in Luke 1:46, we sense the true joy of her heart as she gives God thanks and praise for his choosing of her. The higher our view of God the greater our sense of blessing. The greater our sense of blessing the greater our desire to praise and worship God. Why me? Why have I been chosen? “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46-47).
The burden of being chosen
But there is another side to being chosen—the burden.
Being chosen can bring a variety of burdens, some great and some small, some defined as responsibility and some resulting in agony. Consider Mary again. Betrothed to Joseph, we understand that she has kept herself pure for the time of her marriage. She has been chosen by Joseph and now this choosing of God sends her heart racing. Why me? There will be whispers and suspicions in the marketplace. The authenticity of the angel’s message will be questioned. What about her parents? What about Joseph? Why me?
As mother to our Savior, there will be other burdens to follow. She surely shares in the burden of her Son’s message being rejected and the hostility of the religious leaders. Then there comes the burden of being witness to his death on the cross. Yes, Mary’s burdens are many and weighty.
What enables young Mary to fulfill her calling? Amid the wonderment and the why’s, we discover that this young woman has the heart of a servant. “I am the Lord’s servant” (Luke 1:38), she declares at the end of Gabriel’s speech. Without this view of God and life I doubt Mary could survive this blessed, burdensome calling. She sees herself as chosen to serve the living God.
Author and speaker Elizabeth Elliot once stayed in the farmhouse of a Welsh family who were shepherds in the high mountains of North Wales. One misty morning she watched as the shepherd, on horseback, herded the sheep with the help of his champion Scottish collie. The collie was in his glory, doing what it had been bred and trained to do. What Elizabeth noted was that while the dog’s eyes were constantly on the sheep, its ears were turned to the voice and command of its master. Herding sheep was its glory, but that was only achieved through willingly serving the master.
Like Mary, we experience the blessing of being chosen when we willingly take up the burden of our task, listening all the while with a servant’s ears, mind and heart to the one who has chosen us. What is your calling in this season of your life? Has God chosen you for something great? Is this a season of blessing or burden-bearing—or both?
As believers, we are each already chosen by God. We have received the blessing of salvation and the burden of living as a witness of Christ in a fallen world. It is a wonderfully mixed blessing that our Lord understands from personal experience. His cross, the greatest burden, brought us our greatest blessing.
I’m confident that some readers have been chosen in unique ways for special tasks. Some will face amazing adventures and personal enrichment. Some will face times of challenge and personal engagement. We have a worthy example in Mary, who accepts her calling and humbly fulfills God’s choosing.
Dennis Fast is currently part-time associate pastor of care at Hope Kingsburg, a Mennonite Brethren church located in Kingsburg, California He is also the chaplain at Palm Village Retirement Communities in Reedley, California. He has served lead pastor roles in Hillsboro, Kan.sas and Reedley and was interim pastor at Hope Kingsburg. He has also served as the interim Pacific District Conference minister and was the MB Foundation church relations director. Dennis and his wife, Connie, have three adult children and 15 grandchildren.