Luke 1: 26–38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: “Good morning! You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! God be with you”.
She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called ‘Son of the Highest.’ The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; He will rule Jacob’s house forever – no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
Mary said to the angel, “But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God. And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
And Mary said, “Yes, I see it all now: I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say”.
Then the angel left her.
As the story goes, the messenger never really asked the question of whether or not Mary was willing to accept the call, privilege, joy and sorrow of being the Theotokos, “God bearer.” Rather, Luke’s gospel does something rather striking and surprising.
That is, Mary did not simply walk blindly into awesomely deep waters; instead, she asked a pointedly clear, practical, and direct question concerning how all of this would come to be. (Good for Luke for portraying Mary with a curious mind!) The messenger responded by informing her that the Holy Spirit would work as only the Great God Spirit can and, more so, just to appease any residual concern, Mary should investigate what was happening with her older cousin, Elizabeth, in terms of wonder and new life, even when the odds are stacked against wild possibility.
In the Gospel of Luke, Mary’s “Behold…may it be done” (1:38) is grounded in her intimate and humble relationship with her God. In the end, it is in her “Behold” moment wherein she turned and rested her future in Greater Mystery that ultimately carries the day. Luke’s story of Mary includes a woman’s spiritual life of prayer and relationship with the More, her wisdom to discern deep waters, her need for practical encouragements, and her courage to enter into the ways that God might act in her life, maybe wanting more concrete answers, but still willing to risk that the Spirit will lead and not abandon her.
Luke’s story of Mary encourages us to notice and wonder both with our minds and hearts how God is with us, to be curious and to ask pointed questions, even of God’s great messengers.
Luke’s story also calls us to notice and ponder how God is forever stirring up wild possibilities, and how God invites us into the ongoing story of wonder, inclusive of happiness and sorrows, but, according to Luke, into a life where God’s joy ultimately reigns.