25 March 2011

Luke 1:26-38

"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." (v. 38)


Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, when we remember the story of how Mary discovered that she would become the mother of Jesus. Nine months before Christmas, be warned there are only 275 shopping days left!

I find the most moving aspect of this story comes at the last verse - when Mary says, "Let it be with me according to your word." Today it is hard to realise just how much shame and abuse Mary is taking on when she accepts the message and the calling God has for her. Mary is described as one who has found favour with God (verse 30) - presumably she is well respected or 'a good girl'. Accepting what God has for her means that her family will feel betrayed by her, her future husband believe that she has been disloyal, every time she leaves her home it will mean that that neighbours, former friends will try to stone her to death. Later in life Jesus will affirm that he has "nowhere to lay his head" (Matthew 8:20); being born out of wedlock in first century Palestine means that he and his mother will be seen as the lowest of the low. Most people would be appalled at what God is asking of her, no-one could blame her for saying 'Not me Lord. I don't deserve that.' But Mary says - if that's what God wants - so be it.

Of course the story has to be seen as part of the account of the birth of Jesus. This is no ordinary child - this is the God of all creation being born into that creation - we call it incarnation. But in the way that the child is born this is just an ordinary child, like so many today - born into poverty and disgrace. God's ways are often strange, mysterious, but they are also more than profound.

"Mary I have a job for you!"

To Ponder

In the Methodist Covenant Service we say the Covenant Prayer, "Your will not mine ... your will be done when I am valued, and when I am disregarded." Mary gives an example of what this means; how far can you in your heart say "if it's what God wants - so be it"?

We assume power and influence is found in the palace, but Jesus had more effect on the world than any ruler ever. God's priorities are not ours. What does this passage say to you about what God is like - God's nature?

In one of his parables (Matthew 25:31-46) Jesus spoke of how we will meet him in the poor and the imprisoned. To what extent do we also meet him in the single mother?

Bible notes author

The Revd John Howard

John Howard is a minister in the Methodist Church, at present serving as the chair of the Wolverhampton and Shrewsbury District. He is married to Mary with three adult children, and has just become a grandfather for the first time.