Advent (Day 2)

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name 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 father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33 ESV).

There is so much to be learned in our reading today. Perhaps we will spend more than today looking at each of the wonderful revelations surrounding the visitation of the angel, Gabriel, to Mary. In this passage of Scripture we are introduced to a young woman of Nazareth named Mary. She is to become the mother of Jesus. She is often put on a pedestal; she is someone thought to be so holy and pure as to be out of reach to we who are mere mortals. But though she is a saint, as are all believers, she is also like us, someone who could become “greatly troubled.”

While that phrase catches our attention, we cannot ignore that the first greeting of the angel is to one who “has found favor with God.” The word “favor” is χαριτόω, literally translated as “”grace.” It is only found twice in the New Testament. It ought to be translated as “highly-favored.”  Both times it is used it is speaking of the act of God extending Himself to freely bestow grace (favor). It is a specific choice of God to give to someone a great gift, solely based on his choice. It is not a result of any act from the one who receives the gift. Mary did nothing to deserve this great favor of God.

Her response is to be “greatly troubled.” “Fear not,” is Gabriel’s attempt to comfort and assuage her in her trouble. The source of her trouble was her knowledge that her world was about to be forever changed. Unexpectedly, impossibly she is going to be pregnant and bear a child of God. Even if some might believe the source of this child was the Holy Spirit, it would not wipe away the shame and grief of being an unwed mother. It could even lead to her sentence of death by stoning of the Jewish religious leadership in Nazareth. This was not good news to her. I wonder how many times we’ve received news that troubled us deeply when in reality it was only news that foreshadowed a great work of God in our life. Our problem, as with Mary, is that we often think we can know the future. We cannot. However, we can know the One who determines the future. That is our hope. That is our source of peace!