The story of Gabriel and Mary is remarkable. Zechariah and Elizabeth were selected for being “righteous before God.” There is no indication from Luke that Mary was all that good of a person. She was chosen for really mysterious reasons. At best, she was engaged to a man descended from David. That makes it prophetically convenient to choose Mary. Nevertheless, Gabriel certifies that Mary has “found favor with God”. What leads God to find favor with us? Compassion, mercy, justice, appreciation, helpfulness, etc. The legend has it that Mary was sinless herself. But I doubt it. What is neat about this story is how Mary responds to Gabriel. He says to her “Do not be afraid,” just as he told Zechariah. There is no indication that Mary was afraid, whereas Zechariah was overcome with fear. She was merely perplexed over Gabriel’s greeting. There is no indication that she was afraid. Perhaps she was selected for her courage. Not anyone can carry the Messiah to term, much less raise him right. She must have been courageous and wise; two attributes not often assigned to teenage girls. Maybe this is our entry point into the story—the life of a teenage girl.
Notably, as with many other virgin birth stories, one can lose sight of the foremost character of the story—God. We get caught up in the ‘how’ of a virgin birth, which we’ll never really know. It is the ‘who’ that counts. For as much as we ought to honor Mary and learn her story, God is the protagonist here. God is redeeming the world; God is sanctifying life; God is showing up anew; God is choosing to enter us!
The scriptures indicate that people in Jesus’ day were yearning for a Savior, anticipating a Messiah. Can God do something new in an age of skepticism and cynicism? Can God go the subtle route as with Jesus? Is God still moving and we’re too blind to see it, or is this an age where God lies dormant (as w/ Eli)? Is God waiting for a more receptive generation? How can we be faithful when God is so quiet?
The protagonist is God and God chooses a human way to redeem—through the life of a human named Jesus, son of Mary, son of God. Are we too demanding of the miraculous that we miss the common signs of God’s presence? I think so. I wonder if I am hospitable enough that God can dwell in me. I wonder if my heart is too cluttered up with fear and other demons for God to fit. I worry that I have too little courage for God to find favor with me. I have never seen an angel after all.
Page One is the first page I write for the sermon–one page, long-form, stream of consciousness. It does not go in the sermon, it is a simple practice whereby I just write reflecting on what I have encountered thus far in the sermon-preparation process.