Luke 1:26-38, The AnnunciationIn the sixth month, Gabriel the angel was sent from God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man called Joseph, from the family of David. The virgin was called Mary. “Greetings, favored one!” said the angel when he arrived. “May the Lord be with you!” She was disturbed at this, and wondered what such a greeting might mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” said the angel to her. “You’re in favor with God. Listen: you will conceive in your womb and will have a son; and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be a great man, and he’ll be called the son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom will never come to an end.” “How will this happen?” said Mary to the angel. “I’m still a virgin!” “The holy spirit will come upon you,” replied the angel, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. For that reason the Holy One who is born from you will be called God’s son. Let me tell you this, too: your cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, has also conceived a son. This is the sixth month for her, a woman who people used to say was barren. With God, you see, nothing is impossible.” “Here I am,” said Mary; “I’m the Lord’s servant-girl. Let it happen to me as you’ve said.” Then the angel left her. 1
Seasonally, this is the darkest part of the year - and it’s in this context that we reflect on the world into which Jesus was born: what that meant for us then, what it means for us now and what it will mean for us in the future.
In this week's scripture, an angel from the Lord appears to Mary to tell her all about what God is about to do in her life.
A child will be born to Mary, an unwed virgin.
In any normal circumstance, this is miraculous. This child called Jesus would have been a miracle.
But it doesn’t stop there. Jesus would be a leader - a great man who will be called son of the Most High, who will sit on David’s throne and reign over the house of Jacob - not just now, but forever.
And, Jesus, soon to be born, would not be a King in isolation. He would have a kingdom without end. The promise of King and Kingdom go hand in hand.
This is a story of the impossible happening for the benefit of all of humankind. Mary and Elizabeth, a virgin and a woman thought too old to conceive, find themselves pregnant with the hope of all future generations. New life is happening, beyond all odds.
So what does this mean for us? What do we do when God announces the future in a way we’re not ready for? What do we do when the kingdom breaks forth in unexpected ways?
I love Mary’s responses: “How will this happen?” and “Here I am.”
“How will this happen?” This is an important part of the Christmas story because it’s the human part - the thing we can all relate to:
God is making promises, and we’re not sure how they can be true given the current realities of our world. Feel familiar?
I find comfort seeing a person who responds to the glorious announcement of the conception and soon-to-happen birth of the Messiah with a healthy level of skepticism.
“Here I am.” This is also an important part of the Christmas story. It’s the part that dares us to be more than our fears and doubts, to be a part of the new thing that God is doing. This is the story that invites us to stand in the presence of the Holy and say, “I am available to what you are up to in the whole of creation.” It is an invitation to dream on the level of eternity-- it is our longing to be a part of heaven and earth interlocking at last. This is the Christmas invitation, to let our lives be taken where the winds of the Spirit pull, to hope beyond hope and follow the path of the Lord.
Here are two areas to reflect on during this first week of advent:
I. “How will this happen?”: What are the impossible things happening in your life, family, neighborhood or community? What are the hopes you have for these situations? What are the promises of God as you see in Scripture? Take space in your week to lay these different pieces out. This is an invitation to dialogue, connect and ask questions of God.
II. “Here I am”: Where in your life can you be more available to how God may want to use you? Are there relationships where you know Jesus has asked you to invest more time but you’ve been hesitant? Is there a way you can give your time to making a positive impact in your community this season? Listen for the leading of the Lord with the open heartedness of “Here I am.”
Photos Taken at Grundtvig's Church and Select Locations in Copenhagen.
1 Wright, N. T.. The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation (p. 107-108). HarperCollins.
Words: Geoff Gentry
Photos: Bryan Chung