December 21st Scripture Setting: Luke 1: 26-38
Several key elements are found in today’s scripture from Luke. The angel Gabriel visits an ordinary young woman in an out-of-the-way town (Nazareth), in an insignificant province of the Roman Empire. The woman, Mary, is engaged, but not yet married, to Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Gabriel tells Mary she is favored by God and will give birth to a child named Jesus who will be called “Son of the Most High” (v. 32). As one might expect, Mary does not receive this news very well, at least at first. She is not yet married and is still a virgin. And what will Joseph think of all this?
The angel tells Mary not to be afraid because what is about to happen to her is God’s doing. Her baby will be born of the Holy Spirit. We might assume, however, that Mary is not easily convinced. This is a major shock and might easily upset her preparations for her marriage to Joseph. Gabriel goes on to tell Mary that her relative Elizabeth who is well past childbearing age is expecting a child also and concludes with the affirmation that nothing is impossible with God.
Miraculously, Mary accepts the astounding news (v. 38). She hardly has time to hear what the angel said, let alone consider its implications, and yet she agrees. In this acceptance, Mary models for us how to receive the most wondrous of all gifts. Her answer is “Yes,” and this yes forever changes the world.
Luke seems to be always talking about the Spirit. He starts with today’s promise from the angel that Mary’s child is born of the Spirit of God. Subsequent chapters describe the Spirit’s presence and role in key events in Jesus’ life and ministry, including his baptism, temptation in the wilderness, early ministry in Galilee, and announcement of his mission in the Nazareth synagogue. Just as Jesus allowed himself to be led and directed by the Spirit, the same Spirit seeks acceptance and recognition in the life of each person. This Spirit keeps our lives focused on Jesus, whose mission we claim as our own. When we ask ourselves, or others ask us, what one person or thing gives focus to our lives, may we always reply in word and deed, “His name is Jesus!”
Our text for today reminds us God is always surprising people, disrupting our lives just when we think we have things planned. Even in this season of Advent, when God is so wanting us to be ready to receive the most wondrous gift of all, we are too often so busy—our lives too full—to find room for Jesus. Our waiting and anticipation has become cluttered with all those things we think we need to get done to be ready for Christmas. The world tells us that, including today, there are four more shopping days left. But God tells us there are four more days to slow down and make room in our lives for the Savior.
Worship Helps 12/21/2014)