In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 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. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 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. 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. For nothing will be impossible with 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.
Over the next three days we are stepping back a bit to see what was happening in the lead-up to the stable birth. It’s basically three readings filled with angels, prophets and shepherds.
Angels are everywhere in the nativity stories. They are the chorus line to the central characters of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. In our imagination they are beautiful, strong, shining, humanoid looking beings with eagle wings. In the Bible they are messengers, God’s postmen and postwomen.
So how did it happen, the greatest of all angel stories? Did it come swooping down out of the night sky, a massively brilliant apparition? Did it all happen in a dream? Perhaps it was all much more matter of fact as Mary was sweeping the floor or pounding bread at the table.
Angels seem to be all the rage these days in our ‘sort of spiritual, new age culture’. Some people seem to have an extra sight and see angels everywhere. Me, I have never seen or knowingly experienced a single one. I have met a few people who have, but not many. That is the point. Angels are not everyday, everywhere. They are very special and this is a very special birth. Angels are God’s messengers, his announcers. They are heaven’s heralds and occasionally they come to earth.
Why Mary? Because God saw more than an ordinary peasant girl, he saw the inner Mary. He looked not on the outside but on the inside. He saw purity, faithfulness, godliness in her inner core.
Mary is pregnant with Jesus who will be Son of the most high, the new David. That’s quite a lot for the son of an unmarried, teenage, peasant girl. ‘How can this be?’ said Mary.Hence the song ‘Let It Be’. The Beatles of course, got their theology a bit mixed up. It is not Mother Mary who appears to us when we are alone and in trouble, but her son. Nevertheless, they are still great words of wisdom to discover. Who would have thought an absolute rock anthem, a classic, a Lennon and McCartney standard all goes back to the young girl Mary. She was nervous, full of self-doubt and lacking in confidence. She had no idea what she was letting herself in for, the troubles ahead and the demands it would all make on her. Yet still she uttered the words ‘I am your servant, so let it be, according to your word’. This is trusting acceptance of God’s word and obedience at the deepest level.
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience. It is all about life. Life burgeoning, life coming. As the mother’s belly grows so does the potential; the future hope; the expectancy. But pregnancy is also a nervous, vulnerable time. There is always the danger of miscarriage, accident or still birth. And as all mothers know, birth comes through pain.
At the beginning of your 100 days with Jesus there is a pregnancy in your mind, in your soul. Something or someone has planted a seed; a new spiritual life is happening within you; there is expectancy of a growing relationship. There could be problems. It may all come to nothing. But if all goes well there will be a birth. So here are a couple of big questions to keep thinking about throughout the day: – how and when will your finding and following of Jesus be fully born? And have you yet managed to say to the messenger, ‘Let it be’?
I am your servant
So let it be.
Let it be in me,
Through me, for me,
According to your word.