I’ve read these scripture passages, probably hundreds of times. This week, I noticed something new. This week, I noticed that when the angel Gabriel spoke to Mary, to tell her about her upcoming pregnancy, the scriptures say that Mary was “shaken” by the angel’s words. Other translations use the word “perplexed.”
Mary is shaken not by the presence of the angel, but by his words. According to traditional translations, Gabriel says to Mary, “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” The Message translation (which we heard just a few moments ago) says: “You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, Beautiful inside and out! And God is with you.”
And these words, the scriptures say, shook Mary. Mary has to be wondering: “What is this all about? Just what is Gabriel up to? What does he mean?” And we can’t blame her for wondering about the sincerity of the angel’s words. When you consider Mary’s socio-economic status, her gender, her age, and her lack of life experience, there are so many reasons for Mary to doubt Gabriel. Mary wonders “Why would God possibly favor me? Why would God choose me?”
There is one possibility that doesn’t even occur to Mary at first: Gabriel might be telling the truth. It’s not until Gabriel says, “Do not be afraid” that Mary allows herself to consider: “Maybe, just maybe, maybe, I amfavored by God and maybe God is with me.”
I don’t think that Mary is alone in her doubts. Not at all. Mary is not the only one who struggles to believe they are favored, and that God is with them. I think many of us would have a hard time believing Gabriel’s words…and would shake our heads in doubt.
Even in the best of times, it would be hard for us to believe…really believe…that we are favored by God, and that God is with us.
Mary’s response to Gabriel, then, is really remarkable…she says to the angel: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”
These words take my breath away. Mary’s trust is almost overwhelming. But perhaps Mary’s powerful statement of faith and trust was made possible, by Gabriel’s opening line, by this life-giving promise:
“Greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you.” When Mary heard, and believed God’s promise to her, she was changed.
Gabriel’s words to Mary on that day, so long ago, are also his words to you today. “Greetings favored ones. You’re beautiful with God’s beauty, beautiful inside and out! And God is with you.”
- Trust in these words of truth.
- Trust in these words of faith.
- Trust in these words of love.
And wonder, like Mary did, how God might work in and through you. In difficult, complicated days, these words free us from our fear and self-doubt. And they give us a foundation on which to stand, and then to speak these words…to share them, with a world that desperately needs to hear them. “Greetings favored ones. God is with you.” Gabriel’s words bring light to darkness and hope to the hopeless.
Like Mary, when we first hear God’s promises, we can be perplexed…full of doubt…they can shake us to our core. But when we let go of our fear and we choose to trust in the love and grace of God who welcomes us home, we are set free to follow Mary’s example…”Here we are, the servants of the Lord. Let it be with us, according to your Word.”
Thanks be to God!