By: Susan Naslund

Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord . . .
Luke 1:38

Most days I take my lunch to work. I bring the usual sack lunch fare from home, like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or maybe leftovers from dinner the night before. But, every other week or so, I go to a fast food restaurant near my office for my mid-day meal. I order the same thing every time. It is the kind of place where the person behind the counter shouts your name when your food is ready to pick up on a plastic tray.

I have noticed that when I go to this particular restaurant, the same lunch crowd is always there. One man is missing his left eye. There is a patch of skin attached to his brow and cheek that covers the empty socket. Another young man sits in a wheelchair at the table reserved for those with handicaps. My guess is that he has cerebral palsy. A woman of indeterminate age with a smoker’s voice can normally be found at the corner table. She often offers to refill beverage cups for the others.

When I entered the restaurant a few weeks ago, the man in the wheelchair bellowed, “Hi, Sue!” with a warm smile on his face. I waved. The staff was shorthanded that noon hour, and I had to wait quite a while to place my order. Eventually, one of the line cooks motioned to me and said in broken English, “Sue! Burrito? No onions, add sour cream and tomatoes, right?” I nodded.

Then, my chin dropped and tears filled my eyes as I realized I did not know the name of a single person in that place.

That realization hurt. Over the past two years, the people in this restaurant have become my “regular” community. I don’t really look like the other diners or the waitpersons, but they see me as one of them. They remember me and make an effort to include me. I have not returned the favor. How is it that even though my every day prayer is for God to use me in his service, I have failed to be a servant in my everyday life?

The season of Advent is now here and we will once again tell that miraculous story of the birth of Jesus, starting with Mary learning she will be the mother of the Savior. When I reflect on Mary’s willingness to enter into a relationship with God, and to respond to God with her entire being, I can’t help but think about my own life. If I am also truly a servant of the Lord, willing to offer God’s grace and peace to everyone, and willing to allow love to run through my entire being and out to others, then I need to move beyond shallow and meaningless encounters and enter into deeper and authentic relationships. Learning the names of the people I meet along the way is a very good place to start.

When my meal was finished that day, I approached the man in the wheelchair. “I am sorry. I don’t know your name,” I said. “It’s Jeremy,” he replied. We chatted a bit, and as I waved goodbye, I made a promise to myself to get to know the guests and staff at that restaurant by name. This Advent season, may you be encouraged to get to know others by name, too – at the grocery store, on the trolley, and even in your pew – as you anticipate the birth of the One who knows you by your name.

Dear God, please give me not only Mary’s willing heart to be your servant,
but also the eyes to see opportunities to share your grace with others each day.

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