In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28
She was sitting in the empty, cold sanctuary when she glanced up and saw him approaching her. She wanted nothing more than to be alone. Why wouldn’t they just leave her alone? It was always the worst when she walked through town on errands for her mother. The older ones would simply stare at her in that leering way. Others would speak to her with such vile and demeaning words. Others, still bolder, would get too close and try to grab. It was so humiliating. She always fought back. True to the meaning of her name: Mary, rebellious. She tried to fight back. As she sat in the sanctuary, feelings of worthlessness threatened to overwhelm her. If only they knew. Seeing this strange man approaching her, she glanced around nervously. There was no one else there. The bile rose in her throat as she steeled herself for the encounter.
The Fearful and Forsaken
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31
She was immediately taken aback. “Who was this man? A strong man of God or one of the god’s strongmen?”, she thought skeptically. Yet, he seemed polite, even, surprisingly, respectful. She knew she mustn’t let her guard down, though she noticed he held his distance from her. Perhaps he wasn’t like the soldiers on the street? Oh, but his words, she wondered, were they meant to seduce, betray or was he being sincere? The Lord is with you? It certainly hadn’t felt that way for a long time. It was what had driven her fleeing to the sanctuary alone on this late, gray afternoon. Her cheeks burned as she grew flustered considering his words… do not be afraid? Favored? Fear had continued to grow in Mary as she approached her 13th birthday. Things were changing. She’s known for some time that she had been contracted by her parents to marry Joseph. There was so much unknown. And her? Favored? Special in the eyes of God? She thought, she had once felt that way… as a small child, but it was long ago. If anything, she had begun to wonder if God had completely abandoned her. If God knew. She simply stared ahead as thoughts pored through her mind wondering what in the world this messenger might say next.
The Perceiving and Believing
And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34
As the messenger spoke, a place in her soul grew. An idea emerged in previously empty spaces, and she perceived in herself something anew… a new identity. There was an apprehending of a renewed sense of self and purpose. It’s a boy, she thought, a son. She began to envision herself differently, not as the young girl maligned by the men on the streets, who thought themselves gods empowered to treat her as they saw fit. No. She started to discern that she was more than she was seen through the eyes of others. This idea, this notion, that the Lord was her salvation was conceived in her in the midst of the messy pain of her life. A son, her son! Of course, he would be great! Most High. A princely king, an ancestor of David…an ancestor of David….an ancestor of David? Reign over the House of Jacob? What about Joseph? Mary panicked. As the pieces of this mysterious puzzle began to unravel in her mind, Mary struggled to breathe and her heart sank into doubt.
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36
Joseph. An ancestor of David. Their marriage contract was legal and binding, but theirs was a contract that he could break. Yet, she thought, he was a good man, kind, not unlike this strange messenger that still stood before her. She had more than once wondered if their contractual obligation to one another could become a love marriage. How might he take this news? She couldn’t know for certain. However, this message, this announcement, this proclamation was so powerfully conceived in her. She felt called to this new holy adventure, called to participate in the living story of the ancestors. In her growing conviction, she thought, “Surely, Joseph would add…” but what if…as doubt confronted her fragile belief, Mary stilled her heart and mind and breathed in deeply when the messenger spoke again…
The Solitary in Solidarity
And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38
Mary was momentarily struck dumb by this messenger’s next claim. “Elizabeth, she thought, that’s unbelievable!” Elizabeth was her favorite aunt, but she always seems so, well, old.” Could it be? she wondered as a half-smile formed on her face. And, it’s a boy, a son. Then, tears sprang to Mary’s eyes as she thought of her beloved Aunt’s shame and the despair that grew in her over the years unable to have the child she so desperately wanted. She thought of the fear Elizabeth often grappled with as she grew older wondering who would take care of her and Uncle Zachariah. Then she quietly thought to herself, “I’m not alone”. In this, I am not alone. And, she marveled for the first time. For truly, this messenger, this angel, must speak the truth, “…nothing will be impossible with God.” And she considered, if Joseph keeps his promise, then he will add and yet whatever the outcome, nothing will be impossible with God. “I will go see Elizabeth, she thought, in this we will journey together.” And she stood to speak to this angel before departing for her Aunt’s home. Her heart was bursting with gratitude. She wanted to thank this unexpected messenger. She felt transformed, renewed, and holy dedicated to the road that lay ahead of her. Her shame and fear dispelled, her worth re-affirmed, and her agency restored, the rebellious streak for which she was named sparkled in her eyes as this new understanding of what it means to be saved grew inside her. She opened her mouth to speak with confidence to this angel of God.
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
Just like Mary, mother of Jesus, Son of God, our God is a god that transforms our shame, dispels our fear and supplants our despair. God restores our esteem, instills in us courage, and secures our hope. For our God is a God of possibility. A God that lifts up the shamed, the fearful and forsaken, the perceiving and believing, and the doubtful, reforming and remaking us all into the hopeful. A God who chooses the solitary and the rebellious for they will resist and stand in solidarity to serve as God’s hands in this unjust world. In whatever may lie ahead of us, we may stand, speak and move forward confidently in our life journey for, indeed, God has been, is and always will be with us. We are not alone. And nothing has been, is or ever will be impossible with God. Amen.