[I’m going to tread down a divergent path for this passage, so be warned. ]
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26 – 27)
Have you asked or heard about how your mother and father met? My parents met as a high school they both attended. My husband’s parents just got to know each other living in a small town, or at least I assume that is the story. My husband and I met at college. My grandfather say my grandmother traveling on a street car and liked her looks enough that he followed the street car. For every child, there is a story about how his/her parents met – regardless of whether it is a pleasant story of not.
In the Jewish tradition that Jesus grew up in, most marriages were arranged. So Joseph and Mary may have been matched up by their families instead of meeting at the market square or by the town’s water well. Jesus’ mother and his “other” Father – that’s a different story.
“And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Verses 28 – 33)
Now Mary and the Lord God knew each other. She had to in order to “have found favor with God.” While women did not serve in the Temple or Synagogue, and they had a special place in the Lord God’s house of worship, it was not uncommon for a woman to be devote in worship of God. Jesus and his disciples knew of women who were devote, as did Paul. So Mary must have been such a woman of devotion. But nothing in any woman’s experience of worship of God would point to this type of service to God. Mary did not question that she was called into service to God but wonder how this would come about according to her understanding of fertility and child birth.
“Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” (Verses 34 to 35)
I used to think that it was a great burden to place on a young girl to be singled out by God and be made subject to the type of criticism and disfavor that she must have borne in her community. I have revised my thinking on that. But still, it must have made an interesting story to young Jesus when/if he asked about how his parents met or how babies are born or any of the other questions young children might ask. Questions that are universal and timeless amongst young humanity.
Just as Mary’s pregnancy was distinct and set apart from other women in her community, so too was the birth of Jesus. It is good to remember this when we think of Jesus. From the first moment of his conception is was different and set apart. Yet he grew and matured as any other child and young man. It is good to remember this as we journey through Lent. That Jesus’ life story is close to ours, but yet different. That we may live a life like any other, yet as followers of the Lord God and Jesus Christ we are set apart. And that all followers of the Divine are part of a unique family starting with Mary, and with Joseph.
“And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.” (Verses 36 – 38)
“Let it be.” One of the many reasons I admire Mary is that she trusted in the Lord God so completely that she was obedient. Even when things looked unfathomable, she trusted. I try to that too. And I look to the same God that she did. Through that connection she is my spiritual sister.
I do not know if Mary would have read the psalms or been familiar with them. I would like to think that she was. Because it seems to me, in many ways, Mary’s life lives out the psalms. To her is credited the Magnificat. And the alternate psalms passage for this day sounds a lot like what Mary might have felt.
“You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you. Were I to proclaim and tell of them, they would be more than can be counted.
Sacrifice and offering you do not desire, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Here I am; in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalms 40:5 – 8)
Mary, however, did not say much out loud. Many times the scriptures tells us she pondered things in her heart. I would like to think in her older/later years she talked and told the people around her about what God had done for her and how the Lord had accepted her service. Indeed, how would we know so many things about Mary if she had not spoken to someone?
“I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation; see, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD. I have not hidden your saving help within my heart, I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” (Verses 9 – 10)
The Day of Annunciation is at it’s foundation Mary’s story. Yes, it is the story of how/why Jesus is the Son of God. But it is Mary’s story; of how faith brought forth greater faith. And it can be our story too. We may not be called to bring forth an infant Jesus, but we can carry the news of our Lord God and Jesus Christ. That too is part of the journey of Lent.
May you, gentle reader, ponder in your heart and then tell the “glad news of deliverance”! Selah!