Standing in the Presence of Greatness
Bible reading: Luke 1:26–38
In our reading today we encounter the majestic angel Gabriel. He had already visited the priest Zechariah in the Temple to announce the coming of the baby John the Baptist. Now Gabriel comes to ‘a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph … The virgin’s name was Mary’ (v.21). Mary was a young teenager who had never slept with a man and whose family had chosen a husband for her.
Unlike Zechariah, Mary had not been praying for a baby, and certainly not a virgin conception! Before she discovers what is on the agenda for this meeting, she is already troubled by the angel’s greeting: ‘You are … highly favoured! The Lord is with you!’ (v.28). The fact that this greeting from the mouth of a majestic angel disturbed Mary, tells us that she is humble. She does not think of herself as the kind of person whom the Lord God of Israel would ‘be with’. Maybe this is partly because she is a woman – she might have expected spiritually significant encounters to happen to other people, usually men.
The angel sees that Mary is frightened – he must be used to this reaction from humans! So, he encourages her again telling her that she has ‘found favour’ with God. The message he then goes on to deliver is astonishing. Mary’s kairos moment has come – the intervention of God in human history, towards which all the Old Testament has been building, has arrived. The time is now.
Mary is told, you will be the one who has this child. The promise to Eve is finally to be fulfilled – the seed of the woman will crush the serpent’s head. And Mary is the particular woman who will bring forth this seed. We realise that it is wonderful for Mary to meet Gabriel, but it must have been amazing for Gabriel to meet Mary, after all he knew of the prophecies. The New Testament tells us that the angels long to look into these things (1 Pet. 1:12). Gabriel was meeting the woman who had been chosen by God to bring forth the promised seed – God’s own Son.
Mary will be with child – she will have a pregnancy that will run its course, she will then give birth to a boy, and at this point she is to give Him the name ‘Jesus’. Even in the angel’s message, the progression of time is honoured; she is taken through each step of this miracle.
Gabriel then goes on to describe Jesus: He will be called the Son of the Most High (v.32). This could not be clearer – Jesus is God. He will be given the throne of David. This could not be clearer – He will be the Messiah. The long awaited ‘anointed one’ who has been promised throughout the Scriptures. He will reign forever. This could not be clearer – the Messiah is not a king for a particular time, a military leader who will re-establish Israel as an earthly power, He is the divine eternal Ruler who can never be overthrown.
Mary’s reaction to this marvellous theological revelation – the Messiah is God Himself and will be born in history in order to complete His eternal work of redemption – is to ask ‘how’ it will happen. She does not doubt that it will happen or that it can happen but, as she is going to be involved, she would like to know ‘how’. Mary understands biology, she knows she is a virgin. The angel answers her, letting her know that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. This will be a miracle, a divine work. He reminds her that miracles are really possible, after all, her relative Elizabeth, who is elderly, is to have a baby. Nothing is impossible with God.
Mary responds with the famous words: ‘I am the Lord’s servant … May it be to me as you have said’ (v.38).
Pause to reflect:
Meditate on Mary’s response: ‘I am the Lord’s servant … May it
be to me as you have said.’ Reflect on her humility and willingness to participate in God’s plan. Think about the truth that nothing is impossible with God.
‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Thank You, Father, for Mary’s faithfulness and willingness to be the mother of Jesus. Thank You for her example to us of Christian obedience. Help me to be faithful to You in every arena of my life – intellectual, vocational, with my resources, my body and my whole heart. I am Your servant, Lord. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
1. ‘Nothing is impossible with God.’ Are there things you believe are impossible for Him to do?
2. Mary was asked by the Lord to be the mother of Jesus. What is the Lord asking you to do? Seek His guidance in your life. Are there dreams and visions He has placed in your heart already? Ask Him to help you fulfil His call on your life.Group activity:
Choose somebody with an accurate watch to be timekeeper, then get into groups of four or five to pray.
In each group, one person sits in the middle, and the others stand around. Spend a minute in silence, listening to God for the person sitting. Then, for the next ten minutes, those standing pray for the person sitting, and share any words, Bible verses or pictures they have received. When the ten minutes is up, the timekeeper stops everybody and, in each group, a new person sits in the middle. Repeat the one minute of silence and the ten minutes of prayer until everybody has been prayed for.
If possible, have somebody make notes of the words, pictures etc for each person.