25 March 2020Luke 1:26-38
'For nothing is impossible with God.' (v. 37)
Psalm: Psalm 40
Today we take a break from Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthian church because there is a special day to celebrate. We are exactly nine months away from Christmas 2020 – our next celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. And so today the Church remembers the story of how Mary came to be the mother of Jesus and to play a pivotal role in the history of salvation. There are countless representations of this story in the history of art and in most of them Mary is shown as demure and submissive, meekly kneeling before her angelic visitor. Yet she is to play such an active role in the incarnation that Early Church councils described her as ‘mother of God’.
We might see Mary as illustrating the point made by Paul in the readings from 1 Corinthians this week: The Holy Spirit blesses people with particular gifts and callings that will serve the purposes of God. That Mary, as a young woman without a husband, seems unqualified for her role is answered by a simple affirmation: nothing is impossible with God.
Within the Methodist tradition there is a strong emphasis on certain aspects of the grace of God. The story of the Annunciation vividly illustrates these. God’s grace is, we say, prevenient; that is, God is at work in us before ever we are aware of it or respond to it. God’s grace is also cooperative; human beings (like Mary – and like us) are invited to cooperate with God in the kingdom-building mission that is God’s work in Jesus Christ. Above all, God’s grace is relational. When (in some translations) Mary is greeted as being ‘full of grace’ that doesn’t mean that she has more of it than anyone else. No, it means that the Holy Spirit is at work in her to bring her to the fullness of sharing in the life and mission of God. That illustrates another traditional Methodist emphasis: Christian perfection. Because with God nothing is impossible there can be no limits to the Holy Spirit’s work in us.
- What picture comes to mind when you read the story of the Annunciation?
- How might the person of Mary challenge your expectations of how God works?