Updated: Dec 19, 2018
A homily for Midweek Advent Worship, Holden Evening Prayer, December 12, 2018
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb 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.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.
Our Advent series reflecting on Mary the Theotokos continues…
Quick review, the prophet Isaiah (700 years before the birth of Christ) proclaimed that a sign would be given, that a young woman would give birth to a son and the son’s name would be Emmanuel, which means God with us.
And so as Christians we interpret that sign to be fulfilled in Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who we claim to be the Christ, who we celebrate to be God in the flesh… God incarnate… God with us.
And so we call Mary, Theotokos, which in Greek means "the God-bearer", "the mother of God". And so in hearing the prophecy of the sign, as we move through the season of Advent, closer and closer to Christmas, this evening we now hear Mary’s Theotokos origin story.
St. Luke is the only gospel who shares this story and he begins with a very specific time, in the sixth month. That is, the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Elizabeth being a relative of Mary, and who will give birth to John the Baptist who will be Jesus’ cousin… (you see, they are all connected in more ways than one)
And in that sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, an angel was sent to a specific town, Nazareth, to a virgin who was engaged to a specific man named Joseph, who was a decedent of King David. The details are important… the specific town, family members and names are important.
Now notice what details were left out, we don’t get what time of the day it was, or what the angel looks like. Angels, don’t necessarily have wings, we are not sure if Gabriel was glowing with glory in the darkest of night.
The word “angel” in Greek is “aggelos” meaning “messenger”, Gabriel wasn’t necessarily a mighty angelic warrior with wings and a glowing sword and shield… he was a messenger… his name does mean “God is my strength”, so no worries this angel has got your back, but his main job, his vocation, is that he had an announcement to make to most likely a teenager from a small town in northern Israel.
And so Gabriel announces to Mary, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” (did you notice the Emmanuel tie-in? Emmanuel, “God is with us”… Mary, “God is with you”…. I think that’s pretty cool!)
Gabriel must have been startling because Luke shares Mary “was much perplexed by his words and pondered them in her heart.”
Which leads Gabriel to say those infamous angelic words, “Do not be afraid.”
And then goes on to tell this, most likely teenager, from a small town in northern Israel, some pretty scary stuff. Even though she is a virgin, she is going to have a baby, and this baby will be the Son of God, the long awaited Christ from the family tree of King David, and his Kingdom will have no end.
And as a sign that the impossible can be made possible, Gabriel shares the news that her relative Elizabeth, who is way past child-bearing years and unable to have a child, IS indeed pregnant.
“For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Now, before we take a look at Mary’s response to this news. Her name can mean a few things as well. Mary, is a Greek name that can mean “beloved”, that’s nice, sweet and meaningful, but the Hebrew name derived from the Greek is - Miriam,
which can also be translated as “rebelliousness”.
So yes, Mary is beloved and favored by God, I’m sure she is sweet, but she is also a rebel, she also pushes back a little bit.
She is perplexed and she does ponder and think through this thing that is happening to her and she asks the question, “how can this be?”
In other words... “Whoa, Whoa, back up, what are you talking about?”
And so notice that Gabriel doesn’t scold her for pondering and reflecting or asking a question… rather he shares that God is indeed WITH her, the Holy Spirit will make this happen and this promised child will be what humanity is longing for.
And so Mary then becomes the queen role model for discipleship.
Being perplexed in this weird and mysterious journey called life and faith IS a reality. Like Mary we too are called to ponder and reflect and ask questions.
And as God draws close, as we hear God say to us, like Mary we trust that we are beloved, that we are favored.
Like Mary we place our trust that God can make the impossible possible.
With Mary we respond, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Mary, rebels against the soon to be scandal of her life.
Mary, embraces the impossible, because she trusts God’s promise that she is beloved and favored way before she says yes to God’s plan.
This is the good news of Christmas…
Mary represents humanity, she is beloved and favored, so much so that God choose to be born into our world to be WITH us.
And so as we continue to journey through this season of Advent, closer and closer to Christmas, may we hear the messenger say to us…
"Greetings favored one, the Lord IS with you."
"Do not be afraid."
"For nothing will be impossible with God."
May we respond with Mary… “Here am I.”
And may we be messengers of this good news for a world that longs for it.