The Annunciation of the Lord: The Gospel, Old Testament and New Testament Passages

“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.
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.”
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.
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.” (Luke 1:26-38)

The Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end. While we are still considering Jesus ascending to God, we are also considering the foretelling of Jesus coming to earth. Of course, according to many, Jesus was already foretold and the progress of his ministry, his crucifixion, death and resurrection established. It is often when we understanding the ending of something, we can best understand how it started.

“Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.
Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:10-14)

If one reads this in context, and the verses that follow, it would be hard to know if this is a sign just for Ahaz or if it is a sign of the coming of the Messiah. That is this passage is cited for the annunciation of the Lord, which is the day of recognition and celebration that Mary was visited by the angel, tells you the way the RCL interprets it. But “signs and wonders” can be for many things, and have a variety of meanings and interpretations. What once was may be no more. Former beliefs and practices give way to new understandings.

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:4-10)

Perhaps the annunciation of the Lord coming so close after Easter is a reminder that Jesus’ death and resurrection was the culmination of a plan started many years before, and the possibility of foretold longer ago than that. I have said before, beloved reader, that there is enough in the Divine for of all of creation and all of humanity (and if you have not read me saying that before, take note of it now). Not everyone needs and appropriates the same aspects of God, and the Lord in infinite wisdom had prepared a faith for each person so that they might believe. That we come together in common enough beliefs to create corporate worship and fellowship is another blessing of the Lord. Yes, there are common beliefs to Christianity – Catholic, Protestant and all others that common together in ecumenical harmony. But I digress . . . . again.

May you beloved reader pause and take note of this day of beginnings. Selah!

The Fourth Week of Advent: We Think of Mary While We Wait

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)

I have often wondered what Mary was like. Scripture seems to indicate that she was quite young, a young woman or perhaps not yet out of what we would call adolescence. But I think she would be what we now call a young persona with an old soul. Or maybe it is the way the writer of Luke portrays her as.

 

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.” (Luke 1:28-29)

Why, she might have wondered, am I favored. And who am I that the Lord is with me? Do I want to be favored by the Lord, because I have heard the Lord’s favor is not always an easy thing. And if the Lord is with one, that might mean that great and weighty things are asked of a person of God. She might have thought and remembered all of the people in the history of the Hebrews/Israelites whom the Lord was with and favored.

 

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.” (Luke 1:30-33)

It is very likely with these words from the angel that Mary was afraid. And perhaps what was to come was punishment. But the angel assures it is not punishment but favor and blessing. But Mary, being pragmatic in her nature as well as mature in her understanding wants to make sure she is understanding this, and that the angel has the correct person.

 

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. 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.” (Luke 1:34-36)

Mary might have thought, it is what it is. And I will accept what God gives. And I will count it as a blessing, as I am sure Elizabeth does. A baby? A son! But a son who is the Son of 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.” (Luke 1:37-38)

 

Would the virgin Mary have had such “chutzpah”? “Chutzpah, a find Yiddish word that means daring and audacity. But you would have to have such a personality to follow your husband across many miles when you were very pregnant. Or to face public scorn and judgment over a situation you had no control over. What ever Mary was, and however she is portrayed by gospel writers, theologians, and commentators such as myself, she has a pivotal role in the story of baby Jesus.

Imagine, beloved reader, all things she must having been thinking in the months leading up to Jesus’ birth. She is a very good model for patience and faithful endurance not only for the Advent season but for all times of the year. May you say with Mary, “Here I am Lord, your faithful servant. May all things in my life be according to your Word.” Selah!