The Angel’s Message to Mary
- Imagine how Mary felt when the angel appeared to her.
- Sense that Jesus' coming is God's greatest gift to us.
- Join others in thanking and praising God for the gift of Jesus.
When it comes to Christmas, Nazareth gets short shrift next to Bethlehem; the annunciation stands in the shadows next to the manger. Maybe it's because Protestants tend to be a bit squeamish about how to handle Mary, the mother of our Lord (the angel's opening words to her are the same as in the famous "Hail Mary" prayer). But you can't understand Bethlehem until you first watch this amazing scene of a young girl visited by an angel.
A young girl she is. Scholars who know this period tell us that fifteen or sixteen was a common age for a girl to be betrothed. Imagine this mere girl suddenly accosted by a bright shining angel (as I imagine it), who announces that she, of all people is "highly favored"---or, to put it another way, "You're a very special girl, and the Lord has something in mind for you."
Angel visits always seem to happen before great movements of God. Just off the top of your head you can probably think of half a dozen. Angel means "messenger," and that's exactly what they do in all these cases.
In this case, the message is monumental. God is about to make his great promised move, sending his own Son as Messiah, and Mary will be the one who gives birth to him.
Read through the angel's announcement. The angel reiterates, "You have found favor with God." Make no mistake, this phrase means "God really likes you, and therefore wants to cooperate with you in the greatest invasion of all history." What an astounding thing for a young girl to hear!
As the angel continues, it's practically a mini-course in theology within three sentences: "Jesus," "Son of the Most High," "throne of David," "house of Jacob," "his kingdom will never end." All deeply important words and concepts about which volumes have been written. Add it up and it means that this promised child, this astounding event, involves the "hopes and fears of all the years," and it all comes down to this young girl God really likes in the backwater town of Nazareth.
Of course, there's the small question of how this will take place since Mary is a virgin. The angel explains it as much as possible, but one thing is clear: this is the holy One, the very Son of God. And then, echoing the words God spoke to a doubting Sarah long ago, the angel concludes, "Nothing is impossible for God."
As the eyes of all longing, hoping people throughout the ages are fixed on her, we await Mary's answer. It was an announcement, of course, but it could not happen without her consent. And she said, "Yes! Let it be to me according to your word."
Here, Mary is a picture of every believer and of the whole church. We are called to say yes to God's transforming work in our lives, and yes to the transforming work God wants to do through us.
Step 1 Breathe
Use this time to focus your attention on God.
Do this with me: calm your head, heart, and hands as you slowly breathe in . . . and out. (Demonstrate a few deep "in and out breaths" with eyes closed.)
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