Thursday 1 December 2022 Mary the Faithful Girl who became the Mother of God
St Luke 1: 26 – 38
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.
On the whole, I suspect, most Reformed Christians are hesitant to call Mary “Mother of God” despite this title being used since the ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431) in recognition that Jesus was both divine and human. The title, however, is also an affirmation of a precious facet of our faith: namely, if we affirm that Christian faith is incarnational – God known and experienced “in the flesh” – then Mary stands as witness both to its blessing and cost.
Gabriel pronounces Mary “favoured”. Mary learns that she has “found favour with God” but then discovers that favour comes with cost. As she and Joseph present her Son in the temple Simeon warns her that her motherhood will entail “a sword [that] will pierce [her] own soul too” (Luke 2: 35), seen in the public glare as she keeps vigil at the foot of the Cross.
Little wonder, then, that Mary experiences fear. In the face of Gabriel’s greeting she is perplexed and ponders what his greeting means. She articulates the instinctive and rational reaction – questioning why God would “look with favour on the lowliness of his servant” (Luke 1: 48) and highlighting the impossibility of what is being asked of her. Yet Gabriel’s words – in echoes of assurances to the faithful before her – urge her not to be afraid. The One with whom she has found favour is with her and within her.
And so Mary responds with faith, praying the finest prayer of commitment any of us could offer: “let it be with me according to your word”. Her “yes” – and ours – is what enables God’s love to be borne by us. Her “yes” entailed embracing pain as well as favour. When on the Cross, seeing his mother and “the disciple whom he loved”, Jesus said to the disciple: “Here is your mother.” (John 19: 27) Today, I invite you to give thanks for Mary’s “yes” and with her to “Magnify the Lord” for the gift of her Son.
We give you thanks, our God, for Mary: for her “yes” to your call to become the bearer of your Son. We give thanks for your favour of the lowly and the assurance of your presence with us in times of fear. Strengthen our faith, we pray, that with Mary we may daily say, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word”. In the name of her Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.
The Rev’d Geoffrey Clarke, Moderator, East Midlands Synod