Monday, November 28, 2016

Thinking about Mary

            Yesterday’s reading in the Secret Place—which I didn’t read until this morning—focused on Mary’s courage, from Luke 1:26 – 38. Manny Santiago's words got me thinking about my own courage or lack thereof.

            How do I react to change, or even an announcement of change? How do I react to strange? What if an angel showed up in my kitchen or in my car on the way to work?

The Annunciation from the Nativity Story
            Mary’s first reaction was to be “greatly troubled” and I surmise fearful, since the angel’s next words start with, “Do not be afraid, Mary.” What enabled Mary to move from “greatly troubled” in verse 26 to “bring it on” in verse 38? Why didn’t Mary argue like Moses (Exodus 3 – 4) or nervously ask for proof like Gideon (Judges 6)?

            Some might point out that Mary seems to be arguing or asking for proof when she says, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” I think she’s asking for clarity. “Excuse me, Mr. Angel. Did you mean I’m going to conceive this child after Joseph and I get married? Or did you mean right now in some other way?” I think that’s a reasonable question. Apparently, Gabriel agrees, because instead of striking her mute like Zechariah earlier in the chapter, he explains.

            I notice four things in the scripture passage that suggest how Mary got past “greatly troubled.” Three of them start with the letter “p.” I really wish all four did, because I’m all about alliteration. But maybe the three explain the one.

God’s Favor, featuring
     God’s Presence—The Lord is with you.
            God’s Power—The power of the Most High will overshadow you.
                   God’s Promise—For with God nothing will be impossible. (1:37, NKJV)

            Gabriel calls Mary “highly favored” and also tells her “you have found favor with God.” lists numerous shades of meaning for “favor” both as a noun and verb, and I think these fit: the state of being approved or held in regard, excessive kindness…; preferential treatment. 

            Let’s be clear that usually when someone in scripture is favored and chosen, it’s not for a trip to Disney, but for a difficult assignment. (No wonder Moses and Gideon protested.) In nine or so months, Mary will hear this warning from the old saint Simeon, “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 1:35)

            Along with God’s favor, Gabriel assures Mary she also receives God’s presence, power and promise. It’s part of the favor package. 

            Now here’s the best part:  That favor package is offered to all of us! When I’m confronted with change or strange or a difficult assignment from God, I also have access to God’s presence, God’s power, and God’s promises upon promises upon promises.

            I hope I remember that. I hope you do, too.

 26In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. 
(Luke 1, NIV, from

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