Nor does natural ability come into it. The apostle Paul, who was to become perhaps the greatest evangelist of all time, was, by his own admission, a poor public speaker. He wrote much of the New Testament, and yet, colleague Peter calls his writings 'hard to understand' Paul was not the most naturally gifted of writers!
In part is seems God looks for a willing ness to take him at his word as Mary did. In the end, God's choice of people for special ministries seems to be purely a matter of grace - God chooses people because he chooses them. That's what fills Mary's heart with a song of joy:'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God may Saviour, for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.'
Sometimes we can rule ourselves out of effective service of God. We are too young, loo old, too shy, not clever enough, don't know enough and so on - but none of these cut much ice in God's eyes. Moses puts up no end of excuses when God sends him to the Israelites enslaved in Egypt/I'm a nobody, they won't take any notice of me...God, I don't even know your name...'God, I am slow of speech and slow of tongue,' but none of these objections changed God's mind.
So, what will our response be when God approaches us and asks us to step up to the plate? No, send someone else? Or will we, likeSamuel, say: 'Here I am, send me.'
May I wish you all a very happy Christmas
An unlikely choice
As I write this I am in the middle of planning our Christmas programme.
Early in the story of Jesus' birth in St Luke's Gospel is the account of the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary and telling her that she would bear a child, who would be 'Son of the Most High' and whose kingdom would have no end (Luke 1: 26-38).
Mary, a young woman of no particular note until God called her, rejoices in the fact that she has no special qualifications for the role and sees this principal replicated through out the history of God's people: 'He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.'
Mary was right. Moses started out as the son of a slave-girl floated down a river under sentence of death. King David was the youngest son of a shepherd. Later Jesus appointed 12 apostles from the ordinary trading and artisan classes.
None of these were the sort of folk you might expect would become great leaders...none would have been considered by any executive recruitment agency...but God chose them and they all became great leaders.
God's recruitment criteria
When God chooses someone it's not class, background, education or social status that count. Those things don't necessarily bar you - Isaiah, one of the greatest of the prophets, may have had royal connections, but God does not seem to be particularly interested in them.