Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth
“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary” (Luke 1:26-27).
These two verses set the historical framework for the birth of Jesus. They let us know that what is about to happen really happened, that this episode is not the figment of some writer’s imagination.
Well, what did Mary see? She saw an angel named Gabriel. We know his name because the text tells us. We don’t know if Mary knew his name.
In the history of the church Mary has often been been portrayed as a kind of misty, other-worldly figure. If you look at some of the great paintings of Mary, they make her look so peaceful and beatific that you almost forget she was a real person. That’s a shame because Luke makes it clear that she was very real, with very real doubts, very real questions, and very real faith. Nowhere is this seen with more clarity than in verse 38:
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Without exaggeration we may call this one of the greatest statements of faith in all the Bible. We read it so often that we forget how great it really is. Without warning she meets Gabriel who announces that she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to the Son of God. When she asks how, he says, “Don’t worry about it. The Holy Spirit will cover you like a cloud and you’ll end up pregnant. That’s all there is to it.” What do you say to that?
Mary said Yes. Yes to God, Yes to the impossible, Yes to the plan of God. When the angel said, “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37), Mary took a deep breath and replied, “May it be to me as you have said."
And so the great journey begins.
Grant us faith, O Lord, to believe all that you have spoken, even that which seems impossible to us. Amen.
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