This past Friday one of our board members Dr. Pamela Edwards opened our VP3 Board Conference call with a short Advent devotional on Mary. It set the tone so well for us as a staff that we wanted to share it with you.
Pam is on staff at Cedar Valley Community Church in Waterloo, Iowa where she serves in the areas of spiritual formation and adult ministries. We hope you find this as helpful as we have around the office. She writes, My favorite bible character is Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Though she has many admirable qualities, the one that I find myself thinking about the most these days for those of us in ministry leadership is the way that this ordinary, Jewish woman RECEIVED the angel Gabriel’s news that she was going to be the mother of the Messiah. She was initially confused and disturbed and asked some good questions about how this was all going to work out for her, which I appreciate. However, she RECEIVED her call and without knowing all the answers, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I’m willing to do what you want.” It’s of note that within just a few days of RECEIVING the news from the Angel Gabriel, Mary left to go find her relative and friend, Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. She did not work out her situation alone, she found support and seemed to gain strength for her call. Rather quickly, Scripture reveals (Luke 1:46-55) that she began to earnestly praise God for what He was doing through her. In our work together at VantagePoint3, I sense that there has been a “call” received to do the work that God has asked us to do. Randy, Rob, the VP3 staff, Board, and many other committed leaders up to this time have been faithful to that call. I sense that we are poised this Advent season and into the coming years to continue to work out that “call” faithfully. Herein lies a tension that all Christian leaders face: Managing the call, or RECEIVING the call. Managing seems to make us feel important. RECEIVING seems to make us feel unimportant. In our culture we are trained and rewarded for managing well. It’s certainly good to have a path, plan and goals. But managing and RECEIVING are different. And they ought not be confused. We cannot manage, maneuver, or manipulate a RESPONSE like Mary had to Gabriel. It is a matter of the heart letting go and RECEIVING what is being freely given. It is a gradual emptying of ourselves to make room for something new. There must be some displacement and disruption before there is room for a replacement. Mary knew how to RECEIVE gifts given from the Lord. Mary had humble trust and surrender. Mary does not manage, fix, control or “perform” in any way. She just says, “yes” and begins to adjust, making room for the abundance of new life. As we sit on the cusp of new life in this ministry, our encouragement may also come from Mary. I encourage us to continue to prepare our hearts in such a way that we can RECEIVE what God is giving us, how He is leading us. I encourage us to continue to do the work that we have been asked to do with the same surrender, praise and heart space Mary seemed to have. While Mary’s experience was certainly unique, we all desperately need the Holy Spirit to come upon us and overshadow us. We need Him to help us make room for new life in our individual lives, our families, our church communities and within this Kingdom building ministry. We can’t manage a new spiritual life or make room for one on our own. We need the power of God to work inside us so that Christ can be born within us as individuals to do the work He’s called us to do. This Advent Season, may we have hearts surrendered to RECEIVE the call of the Lord afresh. With anticipation, Pamela Edwards