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The pivotal announcement to an engaged virgin

December 15, 2023
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Daily Scripture

Luke 1:26-38

26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”
38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Mary lived in Nazareth, a minor hamlet that didn’t appear on any known maps of Palestine from that time. Given what we know of her culture, she was perhaps 14 years old. She had no reason to expect we’d even know her name today! Yet God sent Gabriel to call her to a truly momentous life mission—not to lead a great army, hold a powerful political office or shape the social life of a major center like Jerusalem. No— “just” give birth to and raise a son, God’s Son, the promised Savior of the world.

  • Why did God choose Mary? What qualities would you have looked for in the Messiah’s mother—high social status? An established, stable marriage? Economic security? The angel confused her by calling her “favored one.” “Mary’s blessing…. brought hardship, confusion, and grief but it was still a blessing.” * Her simple reply to the angel dwarfed all else: “I am the Lord’s servant…. Let it be with me just as you have said.” How did Mary’s willing response change the world?
  • God’s call to Mary was unique in all of history, just as the person of her son Jesus was. But through your gifts, talents and circumstances, God calls you to fill a particular place in the divine mission of restoring the world to God’s intention. How do you respond when you sense a divine “nudge” in your heart, when a fitting path of service opens before you? What does it take for you to respond, as Mary did, “Let it be with me as you have said”?
Prayer

Lord Jesus, you entered our world, not rich and powerful, but as a newborn infant, wholly dependent at first on your mother. How grateful I am that you chose Mary to be your mother, and that she willingly did such a good job. Amen.

GPS Insights

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller

Leah Swank-Miller is Director of Student Ministries at Resurrection Overland Park. A Kansas native, she has been a professional actress for nearly two decades, and she loves to see the vastness of God’s creation through theatre and the arts. Leah is pursuing an M.Div. from Saint Paul School of Theology. Leah, Brian, and their two children love to play tennis, golf, soccer, and board games.

As I read the story of Mary once again this Advent season, I’m struck by something refreshing. Mary listened to the angel of God and asked questions in her doubt. God chose her, even in her doubt. God was not detoured by her questions. God chose this unsure Mary, a young girl from nowhere with seemingly no power to carry and grow the light of the world in her body and birth hope into the world. God chose the vessel of a female to care for the world’s most precious gift. And Mary said yes to not just be “the Lord’s servant” but to nurse, cradle, care for, cry over, laugh with, lose sleep over, become frustrated with, instruct, teach, and love the “Son of the Most High.” God asked Mary to say yes to the impossible because nothing is impossible with God. And to all of this, she said yes, but not before listening, asking questions, then listening some more. It seems God honors the questions and blesses those who listen more than they disregard. Had Mary dismissed the angel immediately, she may have missed out on being a part of one of the most extraordinary moments in history and certainly on the most notable honors.

There’s a debate going around in circles on the internet about the famous Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know?” made famous in the 90’s by Mark Lowry. The song asks if Mary knew what her baby would eventually do and become by performing miracles, delivering the world from ourselves, and being the ruler over all creation. The song’s sentiment is sweet and heartfelt. Still, many theologians, including me, assert that yes, in fact, Mary hears this all from the angel and, being a Hebrew girl, knew of the Hebrew prophecies passed down from generation to generation about the coming messiah and the many things he would encounter in life. And with this knowledge of the pain and hardship, Mary still said, “I am the Lord’s servant…. Let it be with me just as you have said.” That’s the bravery I want to aspire to. Sometimes, it’s easier for me to say yes to a nudge from God when it’s something I don’t know the full extent of what will be asked. But when God calls me to do a difficult task, and I’m aware of what it will require of me and what I will have to sacrifice, it’s much harder for me to say, “I am the Lord’s servant… Let it be with me just as you have said.” In those times, it’s difficult for me to trust that “nothing is impossible with God.”

While we may not be carrying the son of God in our arms as a newborn baby, we do carry the light of Christ in us to share with the world. In times of darkness, God asks us if we will share the miracle of God’s love made known through Jesus to all we encounter. As Mary beautifully exemplifies, we don’t need to come from anywhere exceptional or be anything extraordinary. We can come with our questions and be ready to listen. Are we ready? What is God nudging us to do this Christmas and into the new year? It’s time to let our hearts and voices say, “I am the Lord’s servant…. Let it be with me just as you have said.”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
References

* Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, sidebar “Blessing” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016, p. 1288.