No thanks. I’m good.

Hang around young people these days and sooner or later you are bound to hear this phrase. Someone asks “Would you like to share this _________ with me?” Another responds “No thanks. I’m good.”

Or “Could I buy your lunch today?” “No thanks. I’m good.”

Or “Do you need help?” You say “No thanks. I’m good.”

At age 50, I’m a little old to use the phrase, although I have my own ways of asserting independence and politely declining invitations. The phrase just strikes me as an interesting colloquialism. The “I’m good” part seems to mean “I don’t need whatever you’re offering. I’m self-sufficient.”

What if Mary, in response to Gabriel the angel’s announcement had said the Hebrew equivalent of “No thanks. I’m good.” No other human being has been invited to do so great a thing as to bear the Son of God. And yet Mary’s humble response, echoed in prayers throughout the ages “Be it unto me according to your Word” is a radical and complete self-offering to God. One could wonder if the chosen “God-bearer” (in Greek Theotókos) had refused the divine invitation, would the Messiah have come to the world?

What if you or I could exchange places with Mary? Never mind whether we are capable of bearing a child. What would our response be to the angel Gabriel? “No thanks. I’m good?” How many divine invitations do any of us decline because we are proud or we resist being vulnerable or we lack the capacity to open ourselves to something new. We are so out of touch with our deepest needs that the equivalent of “No thanks. I’m good.” rolls off our tongues to many opportunities that come our way, before we discern whether or not God might be working through them.

Advent is a season that invites deeper prayer, self-reflection and engagement with God’s invitations to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. If we believe in God and have faith in the Incarnate Christ whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, then we should seek to trust as Mary did, and follow as the Shepherds did, and seek out as the Wise Men did, and risk our lives for, as the saints have done. In and through us, the miracle of this holy story lives on. May the spirit of a prayer of the great Cistercian monk find its way to our hearts in this holy season.

With love and thanksgiving, Rev. Laura

   Let the Word, I pray, be to me not as a word spoken only to pass away, but conceived and clothed in flesh…not merely in air, that he may remain with us.

   Let Him be, not only to be heard with the ears but to be seen with the eyes, touched with the hands and borne on the shoulders.

   Let the Word be to me not as a word written and silent, but incarnate and living. That is, not traced with dead signs upon dead parchments but livingly impressed in human form upon my chaste womb; not by the tracing of a pen of lifeless reed, but by the operation of the Holy Spirit. Let it thus be to me, as was never done to anyone before me, nor after me shall be done.

   Let Him be formed, not as the word in preaching, not as a sign in figures, or as a vision in dreams, but silently inspired, personally incarnated, found in the body, in MY body.

   Let the Word therefore deign to do in me and for me what he needed not to do, and could not do, for himself, according to your word. Yes, let it be done for the sake of the whole world, but specially let it be done unto me according to your word.

Bernard of Clairvaux (A.D. 1090-1153)