LUKE: You went for a walk in the hills?
MARY: In the silence and the whisper of the leaves God feels very close to me. I never really feel that I am alone. It may sound strange, but I feel like God holds my hand when I am walking there. That day…(sighs and smiles dreamily) It was spring and the leaves were just budding. Everything seemed to shimmer in the light of the setting sun. I did think that it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen. A few clouds on the horizon made the sky turn to rose. Have you ever seen the sunlight radiating up from behind clouds?
MARY: It was like that. Only the light from the clouds didn’t just go up into the sky it seemed to reach out and embrace me. I stood still and breathed in the beauty. Then, oh then, the light grew even brighter. I knew God was very near and I fell to my knees.
LUKE: How did you know God was there?
MARY: (with a smile) I just knew. I felt warm, like the sunset was hugging me. In my heart I heard a tender greeting. “Favored one! The Lord is with you!” I think I nodded because there was no doubt that God was right there.
LUKE: What did you think?
MARY: (shakes her head) There was nothing to think about. I was lost in the wonder of the nearness of God. Then I heard, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. You will conceive and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
LUKE: You heard a prophecy of Messiah.
MARY: It is what every girl in Israel dreams of, without ever thinking that it will happen to her. We all want to be the mother of Messiah who will usher in God’s new reign. Even though my house and Joseph’s are of the line of David, we had never talked about the prophecy being fulfilled by our children. Really, we hardly talked to each other after the betrothal ceremony. He was busy building a house for us.
LUKE: What did you think when you heard the promise?
MARY: I said the first words that came to my mind. They were a whisper of confusion, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Joseph and I were not to be married for months.
LUKE: Did you think the angel was foretelling what would happen after you were married?
MARY: No, I knew that God’s word was immediate and the next thing I heard confirmed it. (pauses) It was almost too much to believe. “The Holy Spirit will come to you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God.” I think I held up a hand in denial and fear, because a moment later I felt a comforting warmth and the declaration of something almost more astonishing. “Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son. This is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
LUKE: Why did it matter that Elizabeth was having a son?
MARY: (smiles) It was proof from God that what I heard was true and real. The Holy One gave me something tangible to confirm the Promise. My mind was spinning and my heart was pounding.
LUKE: Did you doubt the angel?
MARY: Hearing of Elizabeth’s pregnancy made me realize that what I heard in my heart was true and from God. It was not something I imagined. I knew that I had to go visit Elizabeth. I knew she was pregnant just as I knew that the Message was true. I would bear Messiah.
LUKE: It must have been hard to grasp.
MARY: In a way it was strange, but I had no fear. I heard myself say, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be as you have said.” Later I thought about all the reasons that my response was rash, but even then I was not afraid. God’s love held me secure. It was dark when I returned home. Mother asked me what happened. “You are late,” she scolded me. I was surprised she didn’t see anything different about me. I knew I would never be the same and that my life was changed forever.
The Bible has many instances of others who encountered God and argued much more volubly against their call. Moses, for one, begs God to “send someone else.” Jonah tries to run away from God’s call. Elijah has to be reassured by the “still small voice” that he is not alone. Mary, on the other hand, expresses astonishment that she could conceive, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” (vs. 34), but does not argue or present all the reasons that she cannot be mother to the One “called the Son of God.”
Mary of the Annunciation is a woman of strong faith, despite her age. She knows that the refrain of the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness is correct. “Morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!" Without hesitation she believes when the angel says, “nothing will be impossible with God,” and responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” (vs. 38)
What does her submission to the call of God have to teach us as we begin our Advent journey this year?
Is Mary’s strength and faith an inspiration for you?
Can we be as trusting as Mary, so that we can say, “Great is Thy faithfulness” no matter what we are called to do?
We can respond to any challenge or opportunity when we understand that God provides all we need, no matter what we are called to do or where we are in our journey. Let the refrain to the hymn be your prayer this week as you listen to what God is saying to your heart and mind.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!
Next week we will hear Mary tell how she informed Joseph of her news.
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