20 December 2016

Luke 1:26-38

“Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” (v. 28)

Psalm: Psalm 24


The stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth, on the one hand, and Mary, on the other, are woven together throughout this chapter. Thus we are to see that the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus are connected. However it is also clear throughout that Jesus will have pre-eminence.

Once again we may struggle to envisage the meeting between Gabriel and Mary. Unsurprisingly Mary is at first troubled by the encounter, but her concerns centre round the angel's words rather than his presence. The thought that she is highly favoured by God and that the Lord is with her unnerves her (verse 29). We are given no hint at this point that she moved in particularly religious circles, and thus talk of God's favour would have been totally unexpected.

Nevertheless, by way of reassurance Gabriel repeats that she is chosen to bear one who "will be great and will be called Son of the Most High" (v. 32). In the town of Nazareth, which had a very mixed population, and at a time when the nation was under Roman rule, the promise to Mary that her child would fill the throne of David and that his kingdom would never end must have sounded like pure fantasy.

Yet Mary, unlike Zechariah, doesn't challenge her angelic messenger for a sign. Rather she asks the reasonable question of how this can come about (verse 34). In response she is offered the sign of Elizabeth's pregnancy and trusts herself, without reservation, to God.

To Ponder

  • On the face of it Mary, who was most likely a young peasant girl living in a town far from the centre of religious influence, is an unlikely agent of God's will, and yet is the one who is chosen. Where have you seen God using people whom you didn't expect him to use?
  • Repeat quietly and slowly Mary's words "I am the Lord's servant." As you do so reflect on how that attitude will affect you in all that lies before you today.

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland. As well as serving as a circuit minister in Bray Co Wicklow and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission, he has been General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland and its President in 2009/2010.