Monday 25 March 2019

Bible Book:

‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ (v. 28)

Luke 1:26-38 Monday 25 March 2019

Psalm: Psalm 40


Today is the Feast day of the Annunciation, when Mary was visited by angel Gabriel. Exactly nine months before Christmas day, it originally marked the beginning of the new year.

In the story of the Annunciation a young Jewish girl, Mary, is visited by the angel Gabriel and invited to bear the Son of God, by miraculous conception with no human father.

The story is the announcement of God’s incarnation, human embodiment in earthly time and place (Nazareth in Galilee 2000 years ago). The passage echoes Isaiah 7:14 where a young woman bears a child ‘Emmanuel’ God-with-us, prophetic sign of God’s intervention in human history.

The story offers a sensitive psychological portrayal of the encounter between Gabriel and Mary. Mary is perplexed at Gabriel’s greeting that she is “favoured” and the “Lord is with her”. Many paintings of the Annunciation show Mary drawing back from the angel. This is an: ‘I am not sure that I want to be “this” close to God moment’!

Gabriel reassures her (v. 30) and describes what will happen (vs. 31-33), placing Jesus in the line of the promises of King David’s everlasting dynasty (2 Samuel 11–16).

Mary’s rational mind can’t work out how it is possible that she can conceive, and we may be working on that one too. In verse 34, Gabriel tells her “the power of the Most High will overshadow you”. It will happen through the agency of the Holy Spirit (v. 35). This is still mystery.

Does Mary truly have the freedom to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’?

While she is considering her answer, Gabriel gives her news of her cousin Elizabeth who, in her old age, has miraculously conceived a baby to be called John, who will point the way to Jesus.

Courageously, Mary obediently chooses to accept the invitation, despite her Jewish cultural context meaning she could be stoned to death for bearing a child out of wedlock.

After this passage, Mary visits Elizabeth and ponders the meaning of God’s miraculous intervention in human history in a song called the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56).

The story of the Annunciation arrests our imagination. There are puzzles that rational thinking cannot solve. How can the infinite God limit Godself to become finite within human culture, to be born supernaturally of a human mother? How does ordinary human experience make sense of this?


To Ponder:

  • In what ways would you consider the Annunciation to be the most important event in human history or not?
  • Was Mary truly free to say no and is this important?
  • Is Mary, as God bearer, important in your own faith journey? In what ways ‘yes’, in what ways ‘no’?
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