A Bible Reading: Luke 1. 26 – 38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, 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. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Apart from being the obvious female star of the annual nativity play, Mary often passes us by. Over the years, I have found this peasant woman more and more intriguing.
Why Mary? Why an unmarried, teenage, peasant girl? When the angel tells her she is expecting the Christ-child, no wonder she said: “How can this be?” She had no idea what she was letting herself in for, the troubles ahead or the demands it would make on her. God clearly saw something more – the inner Mary. He saw a purity, faithfulness and simple godliness in her inner core.
Pregnancy is a wonderful experience. It’s all about new life growing, full of potential, future hope, and expectancy. However, it is also an anxious time with an ever-present vulnerability, the threat of miscarriage, accident or still birth. And birth comes through pain.
Thanks to the Roman census, Mary had to make a long journey in the late stages of pregnancy only to find that there was nowhere left to stay. In common with many refugees and asylum seekers, Mary has to make do with the shelter on offer. Her baby was born in the dark and filthy surroundings of an animals’ stable. And then there were the unexpected visitors. After an unplanned pregnancy maybe the family didn’t want to know. There is no mention of any of them visiting, but there must have been other family visitors around in Bethlehem due to the census. Instead, there were the local shepherds with some weird story of angels and later some strange foreign astrologers with an equally weird story of being led by a star.
Luke tells us that Mary not only accepted God’s call but she ‘treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2.19) She may not have understood all that was happening, but she thought about things deeply, turning them over in her mind. As you hear the familiar stories again, take some time to ponder like Mary. And when God asks you to do something, ponder some more. Mary’s answer was ‘I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to God’s word.’ What will your answer be?
A Prayer Lord, I am your servant so let it be.
Let it be in me, through me, for me,
according to your word.
‘Let it be to me’ from Make Way for Christmas: The Gift by Graham Kendrick