Luke 1:26-38 Dec 24 2017
Mary was “Much perplexed” by Gabriel’s greeting. It’s no wonder. Here she was, alone with a man who was not family—that alone was scandalous. During the betrothal period, she was not even allowed to be alone with Joseph¸ her husband.
This is an annunciation story like the story about the birth of John the Baptist that comes right before it, and like several other stories in the history of Israel. This man who called himself the angel Gabriel was with her and telling her that she would have a child who would be the Messiah. What an honor. To be the mother of Messiah was the greatest honor a Jewish woman could receive! And the privilege fell on a virgin in Nazareth.
But this was not only an annunciation, it was a call to be a servant of God. Mary would be the mother of the Messiah. His father would be the Holy Spirit. This baby would be both God and man and iIt would be Mary’s job to teach the Son of God how to be human.
This call came with a cost. Mary was a virgin who would soon become pregnant. She had to know what that meant. There was a socially acceptable process for these things. First was the betrothal, then the marriage, and then came children. Mary’s pregnancy, no matter how divinely ordained would be scandalous. It would bring shame on Mary and her family, on the child, on Joseph, and on his family. Mary had to wonder whether a child born into such a scandal would ever have a chance to be accepted in society, let alone to be the prophetic voice of the Messiah. She had to wonder whether her loved ones would even allow her to carry the baby to delivery and what would happen to her. She remembered that the punishment for adultery was death. Accepting this call was taking a huge risk.
Even though she knew the consequences Mary replied to Gabriel, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." (Luke 1:38 NRSV). Her faith and submission to God’s will are reflected in Jesus’s words in Gethsemane, “not my will but yours be done." (Luke 22:42 NRSV). It’s one thing to pray for God’s will when we think it aligns with our desires. It is completely another to know that obeying God will bring shame and suffering and obey. Mary taught her son well.
Mary taught Jesus well. Throughout history many who love Jesus have answered God’s call to challenge the social norms. Peter and John were commanded by the Sanhedrin to stop preaching about Jesus and they refused, preferring to obey God rather than humans. Stephen was stoned to death for preaching the truth that the Jewish leaders had killed the Messiah. In the 1500’s Martin Luther challenged the teaching of the church. He was convicted of heresy and excommunicated, but his protests reformed our church—even the Catholic church that he protested. In the 1700’s John Wesley was refused the privilege of preaching in many Anglican churches because of his obedience to God’s call. Eventually he chose to become “more vile” and preach in the highways and coal fields. His obedience was the beginning of our church today. And even more recently in the late 1900’s Agnes Bojaxhiu (Agnes Boy-a-ju) left her home to serve the poor in India. We know her as Saint Theresa of Calcutta or Mother Theresa.
Today we are called to live out God’s call on our lives. This comes at a price as we act and speak counter to the social norms. People will question our motives and even reject us as we answer God’s call to love those who the world says we should hate; to accept those the world has rejected; to give all we have of our riches, our power, and our pride, instead of seeking more riches, power, and pride; to care for the world and for all in it rather than simply exercising using it up; and to encourage others to do good rather than criticizing their failures. You see, we will be going against the ways of the world because God calls us to cast a new vision in the world—a vision of the Kingdom of God. We are called to do God’s will.
In this Christmas time, let us answer God’s call with the words that Mary taught Jesus. I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your will. Amen