During this season of advent, now drawing to its close, we have been looking at those who point to Christ. And today in our Advent cycle, we remember Mary. The thing we celebrate about Mary is her complete obedience to God’s will, her complete surrender to Him, trusting that His will for her life is best. And in those few words ‘I am the Lord’s servant, be it unto me according to thy will’ her life changed, and not necessarily for the better. She becomes pregnant, outside of marriage, with a child who is not the son of her soon to be husband. That would have left her shunned and looked down upon. She went through nine months of pregnancy, enduring all sorts of gossip, all the time probably wondering if she could take it, wondering if life would have been easier if she had said no to God. Maybe even wishing she had.
Then, to make matters seem even worse; when Jesus is born, He runs off when he’s a child, to the temple, He takes a career travelling about preaching and, when she comes to him, thinking He’s gone mad, He rejects her. And then she watches the life seep away from Him as He hangs on the cross. Her path was not an easy one.
In fact, none of those we have remembered this advent had easy lives. The patriarchs didn’t; Abraham had to leave his homecountry and almost sacrificed his son. Jacob had warring children and literally wrestled with God. Moses had to repeatedly confront Pharaoh and then didnt even get to the land that God had promised him and his people.
The prophets, who we remembered a fortnight ago, were ignored, stoned, threatened, thrown to lions and some were even killed. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and, although he gathered a huge following, they all left to follow Jesus and finally he was thrown into jail and beheaded.
But here is the thing; none of them complained; in fact they rejoiced and praised in their suffering. Knowing they suffered for their faithfullness to God produced a deep rooted joy in them and made them yet more faithful. They clung to God as their rock in the storm. As the devil tried to uproot them, tried to throw them off course, they simply stood firm in the knowledge any team with God on its side is bound to win.
Life with God isn’t an easy path, when you go where He tells you to it won’t be easy, the devil doesnt like it and will do all he can to get you to stop. We are to follow in their footsteps, to listen closely to God and where He is calling you and leading you to follow.
So if you are following where God is leading and life is getting tough, be encouraged. Life on that path isnt easy, but you will be doing a great deal of good. If, however, life is easy, if it’s a breeze: stop and take stock, because chances are that you are not following where He is leading. If the devil isn’t attacking you, it’s probably because you aren’t a threat. Now I’m not saying ‘go and seek out persecution or difficulty’, I’m not saying make life deliberately difficult for yourself. In fact I’m not even saying that ‘if life is good then you arent following God’. I’m saying take stock. If life is easy, is it because you arent following God closely enough? If life is hard is it because you are following Him closely or is it because you are being difficult with those around you? Advent is a time of taking stock, we have almost come to the end, so take a good look at your life in the light of those who came before that we may all be ready to welcome him this Christmas and ultimately when he comes again.
We are called to follow the example of the patriarchs, the prophets, John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary. To follow God where he leads, even into difficult waters, and in all things to point to Christ, for that is why we are here; to point to Christ in all things, in the storm and the calm.