Mary, mother of Jesus, is the focus for this the final week of Advent. We have heard the prophets speak of the coming of God; we have heard John the Baptist testify to the “light”; now we meet Mary, this remarkable, but utterly ordinary woman, who became mother to Jesus, in whose womb, God Almighty, Creator of the world would form into a human baby.

Our reading for this week is from Luke’s Gospel; the angel appears to Mary. (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.

Poor Mary; without warning the angel appears and speaks. “She was much perplexed” is surely an understatement.

And so the conversation develops and in a matter of fact way the angel tells her that she will conceive and have a son, and she must call him Jesus.

We can get too quickly to the conclusion – “Nothing is impossible with God”. That is easy to say in general, but much harder for us to say in our particular difficulties or challenges. We may not be told we will give birth to the Messiah, but we – or family or friends – have to cope with serious illness, with a job-loss or family crisis and then we are not sure where God is.

In Mary’s case she is told what will be, but, in our situations, we don’t know what will be – but we can learn to follow the example of Mary and respond in our heart and mind and will: “Here am I: let it be according to your word”. It is not easy to rest on God, to trust God in the hard situations; the disciples were terrified in the storms on the lake, and they deserted Jesus in Gethsemane.

Here at this unique moment in history, we find this most remarkable woman simply acquiescing to God – “let it be according to your word”.

As we, like the prophets, seek a greater desire for God’s righteous just Kingdom; as we, like John the Baptist, seek to be a witness to Jesus; so even more should we seek to emulate Mary and at the deepest point in our heart find the strength and focus to “let it be according to God’s word” – to trust that God is God and so to know that what we have entrusted to God, whether ourselves or others or a situation, God will hold and keep and make good, in his way, in his time, but for sure.

For Christmas is about the sureness of God’s love for this world, God with us in the reality of the world, not just in theory or in  generality, but human, born, for real.

O come let us adore him!

Rev’d Peter Reiss: 20th Dec 2020