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, favoured 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 favour 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 for ever, 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.
Angels. Virgins. Unplanned pregnancies. Strange words. Strange greetings. Incredible understatements. Ground breaking, life changing, universe shattering news. As if we didn’t have enough to cope with this year what with pandemic, political crisis and powerful propaganda alongside ordering the sprouts and ensuring Aunt Bertha’s favourite biscuits are on the table on Boxing Day, now we have The Annunciation to get our heads round too.
Our lives have been an unforeseen roller coaster ride of coping and adapting to unprecedented challenges for almost two years and we could be forgiven for wanting a bit of calm and predictability now and through 2022. If today’s reading tells us anything it tells us just to hang on tight because none of us knows what’s coming next. In the space of this account from Luke’s gospel a young teenager goes from astonishment and perplexity via some astute questioning to acceptance and compliance in an almost unbelievably short space of time. Mary’s life will undergo the most difficult and complicated changes socially, culturally and gynaecologically and we are told that she just gets on with it. What an example of how to learn from young people.
What we also know is that somehow we too can find the strength to face it, deal with it, come through it and learn from it – whatever IT turns out to be. And we know that we are not alone. We travel this very rocky road in company with all of humanity and the responsibility that God’s love places upon us is to walk that way faithfully and often courageously, looking out for and being looked after by our fellow travellers at all times.
Well, bring it on then!
Loving God, help me not to be overwhelmed by whatever life throws at me but to take a deep breath and move onwards with you. May I take a leaf out of Mary‘s book and be ready for anything. And please may I remember where to put my hands on the recipe for Aunt Bertha’s favourite biscuits. Amen
The Rev’d Carole Elphick. Retired Minister worshipping at Muswell Hill. .