The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “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 called Holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her (Lk 1: 26-38).
This Sunday’s Gospel from the first chapter of Luke is one that I wish I had never read before. As Christmas appears around the corner, and I pause in my preparations, I encounter this story: That almighty God sends an angelic messenger to a virgin in a small town in Israel, asking her to be the mother of God’s incarnate Son, the Messiah who will rule forever.
I think if I were reading this for the first time, I would be provoked to deep reflection. What kind of God would choose a poor unknown young woman from an oppressed people to bear God’s only Son? What kind of young lady, after being given a very brief answer as to how such an impossible thing could be possible, would acquiesce with the words, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord”?
But alas, I have read this so many times, and this passage comes at such a busy time of year, that my mind files this incredibly provocative story away under the comfortable heading of “The Annunciation,” and I don’t stop to ask the questions about God, Mary, and the plan of salvation that it provokes.
I take a deep breath during this time of hurry and reflect. Why did Mary say yes so quickly and wholeheartedly? Mary trusted.
When all of her plans, hopes and dreams were suddenly changed by the words of an unexpected angel, she was initially troubled, yes, but she accepted God’s plan as Love, and entered in with her whole being — literally gave her body as well as her soul and mind to his plan.
I want that trust, that freedom to accept his plan over mine. When my child is diagnosed with an incurable genetic disorder, I want to trust and accept, without anxiety, that even in this God loves me. When my work for the Lord is put on hold because of chaos in the world around me, I want to be free of fear and accept these changes as God’s loving plan. When I am not who I hope to be—as a woman, wife, mother—I want to contemplate God’s love for me in my weakness, and trust.
I look with new eyes at this miraculous story today; I choose to trust, accept, love, and say, “Let it be done to me according to your word.”