25/3/04 Year C The Annunciation : Luke 1:26-38
Luke 1:26-38 26 In the sixth month, 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 favoured! 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 favuor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob 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 upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called 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 barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." 38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
When Chloe, who is now three, was born she was only 4lbs 13 ozs and so small I was almost fearful of holding her, even though we had been parents before with Joshua. Becoming a parent is a joy and a responsibility, and every responsible would-be parent wonders if they will be up to the task.
Today, though, I would like us to consider Mary's attitude to the role of mother that God gave her. First, I would like you to imagine how she might have felt, not only having an angel appear to her, not only having an angel appear to her and tell her she would be pregnant, but being told by an angel that she would be pregnant with God's Son who would be a king forever !
28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."
When God calls someone to do something for him it is a privilege, duty and joy. Working with us, through us, and despite us is one of the ways that God shows his favour towards us.
The Lord is always with us by his Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us the power to serve Jesus and the gifts that we need to do this. This was true of Mary and of every Christian who has served their Lord through history. This continues to apply today,
Mary was young and, when she received the news must have felt curious, overwhelmed, apprehensive and inadequate. Her curiosity led to the question, 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
This was a very practical question. It is a reminder that things were not so primitive in these times that a young woman like Mary would not know how to get pregnant. Some who have dismissed the virgin conception have inferred that people at this time were too primitive to understand the issues involved!
Note that, unlike Zechariah who questioned the certainty of the conception of John the Baptist ( 1:18 ), Mary questioned how it would be done. Not if it would be done. It shows us that, at times, we need to be practical and ask questions about how God will do things. But at the same time we can be confident that nothing will stop God carrying out his plans. "37 For nothing is impossible with God."
Mary did not know how Joseph would react. Would he reject her and she have to face the ignominy of being an unmarried mother in a culture where this was unacceptable? The conception of Jesus when Mary was betrothed would have provoked gossip in their home village. If we read the gospels it is clear that this followed Mary and Jesus for over thirty years. So, whilst it was a daunting and a great honour to be the mother of Jesus, Mary would have to face up to suspicion, gossip and to the pain of seeing her first born son be rejected, unjustly tried and executed in an humiliating and barbaric way.
What was Mary's response to this amazing, but disturbing news? It was one of humility and devotion to God's will.
38"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."
The Masai tribe in West Africa have an unusual way of saying thank you. When the Masai express thanks, they bow, put their forehead on the ground, and say "My head is in the dirt."
When members of another African tribe want to express gratitude, they sit for a long time in front of the hut of the person who did the favour and literally say, "I sit on the ground before you."
These Africans understand well what thanksgiving is and why it's difficult for us: at its core, thanksgiving is an act of humility.
Once she was with her relative Elizabeth, ( who was considered too old for children but was miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist,) Mary responded in praise and worship to God.
This praise was humble, centred on what God had done. This praise is focused on what he has done in history. We can be confident that he will continue to act in this way and bless those whom he has chosen.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
Let us remember too that Mary is an model, not just of humility and of motherhood but of Christian willingness to undergo suffering to further God's purpose. We can learn from her example of submission to God's will and seek to imitate this.
As those who have received the mercy of God through Jesus let us all be devoted to :
the humble praise and worship of God;
the service of Him in whatever he calls us to do;
the support by prayer and encouragement of others who serve Him.
God of compassion,
whose Son Jesus Christ, the child of Mary,
shared the life of a home in Nazareth,
and on the cross drew the whole human family to himself:
strengthen us in our daily living
that in joy and in sorrow
we may know the power of your presence
to bind together and to heal;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.