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This Sunday at church, we had an awkward moment.  While giving the children’s sermon, the pastor asked the kids, “When the angel came to visit the girl, Mary, what good news did he have for her?” Listening on the altar steps were some girls who were around 12-years-old, roughly the same age as Mary would have been.  Looking at those girls made the pastor’s question uncomfortable for those of us sitting in the pews.  The reality was that Mary was an unmarried, 12-year-old girl in ancient Israel, and being told that she was pregnant simply was not good news.  When we talk about the Christmas story, we like to gloss over that fact, but we shouldn’t.

The Bible itself glosses over the drama of this situation.  In Luke 1:38, after being told she is going to have a baby, Mary responds to the angel Gabriel by saying, “I am the Lord’s servant … May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s response, however, is not as simple as it sounds, and we shouldn’t miss the lesson in it.

Like Mary, we sometimes face situations that are unexpected.  Sometimes life doles out circumstances that are unfair or hard.  It is easy to feel overwhelmed and alone.

Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel is a lesson for us all in how to respond to life’s difficult situations: I am the Lord’s servant.  That means, “My focus is solely on serving God.  I will not be distracted by worry or fear of what may come.  I know that whatever happens, God will work out all things out for my benefit.”  When we respond to challenges in this manner, we equip ourselves with the ability to overcome any obstacle.

Of course, having Mary’s attitude is easier said than done.  We’ve all had those moments when we have thought, “Will I make it out of this situation okay?  Is God with me?”  Because in scary moments, like Mary’s, God seems very far away.

That is why Mary’s response was so perfect.  She eliminated all the stuff that clouds our vision when we face a difficulty.  Her response didn’t include “What ifs?” and “Why me’s?”  Mary had tunnel vision.  She was focused like a laser on her calling: I am the Lord’s servant.  She was not going to let herself be distracted by the multitude of problems that she faced: She was engaged to be married.  She was supposed to be a virgin.  And she was being put in a situation whose explanation would be implausible to everyone.

Mary instead focused on the task at hand – being a servant of God.  When we focus on serving God, miraculously life seems a lot less complex and scary.  We aren’t burdened with the futile effort of trying to solve all our problems (and everyone else’s).  We don’t have to spend our time fretting over every possible bad outcome to our situation.  Instead, we can focus our minds solely on one thing – serving God.  Having that one task makes life a whole lot easier.

When we are servants of God, every moment of our day is laid out for us.  We are either loving others or not.  We are either acting with compassion or not.  We are either treating others with kindness and gentleness or not.  We are either being God’s representatives on earth or not.  It is just that simple.

As we go through the Advent season, consider Mary.  Consider using her example to guide you through the challenges that you face in your life.  Cast your worries and fears to God, and live with the single mantra: I am the Lord’s servant.

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