by Lucinda Smith, an Advent reflection
Mary’s response to the angel Gabriel’s announcement is quite EXTRAORDINARY. We have gotten used to it because we have read it and have heard it spoken from pulpits and in nativity plays, so many times, over so many years.
Hear, again, the angel’s familiar words:
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 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, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30-33)
Take a moment to put yourself in her shoes – not to imagine yourself as Mary, but as yourself, receiving an angelic visitation, and hearing this surreal pronouncement. What would your reaction be? What on earth would you say? Would you lean in towards the Light or lean back away from it?
Let’s be honest, here… if we are able to speak at all, we might respond with, ‘What, me? You must be kidding?Surely you don’t mean me?’or perhaps, ‘Is this for real? Am I dreaming? Going mad? Tell me this isn’t true…’ or ‘NO, no, no. I didn’t sign up for this. Go and visit someone else’.
Mary’s extraordinary response does not question the content of the declaration, nor does she query what will be required of her. Her reaction is stunningly revelatory in its sweet naivety. “How will this be… since I am a virgin?”. Such words emerge from a deep well of simple trust and faith. Jesus once said, ‘for the mouth speaks what the heart is full of’ (Luke 6:45).
You and I may never be visited by an angel relaying such a message, but there are plenty of opportunities to examine our responses to the words God speaks to us in any given situation that we might find ourselves in. Because, you see, today He says, as He would no doubt have later also said to Mary, ‘forgive, always forgive, no matter how deep the wound’, ‘keep following me, even when you don’t understand’, ‘take up your cross daily, and bear the weight of being misunderstood, and wrongly accused’.
Mary’s unswerving commitment to the God she knew and loved, took her to places she had never before imagined – shunned by her community, doubted by her betrothed, bewildered by her swollen belly. But in saying YES, in leaning towards, she made it possible for all of humanity to encounter Emmanuel, God with us.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
How much do I really trust God, and how far will I go for Him, now, today, with the opportunities that He gives me to say ‘YES’, and I wonder what my YES might give birth to?