Advent season…the time of waiting expectantly and often in the silence. Our ears are often quite attuned to every little noise. If I had ears like my little pup, one ear would always be pointed up with the other one pointed down with my eyes fixed on the door.
As I meditate on the 1st chapter of the book of Luke found in the New Testament of the Bible, I can’t help to notice the parallel announcement of a coming child. An angel sent from heaven, named Gabriel, appears to two individuals announcing a very similar miracle soon to manifest in Israel.
The first individual is an elderly religious man, a priest from the lineage of Aaron named Zechariah who is married to Elizabeth. Nearly 6 months later the same angel appears to a young girl named Mary, the cousin of Elizabeth, engaged to a man named Joseph from the lineage of David. The angel gives a very similar announcement of the miraculous birth of a son to each.
The angel shares with Zechariah that God has heard his prayer for a child, as he and his wife were childless, and that he was to name his son, John. Later, the same angel congratulates the young girl, Mary, because she is favored above other women and declares that the Lord is with her. I am curious as to why the angel spoke to a seasoned and mature religious man and to a young innocent and unexperienced woman. I will need more time to ponder this and for another blog post.
For now, I want to focus on the responses of each individual and how my responses to God often play out in my life. I must remind myself that both Zechariah and Mary were stunned and shocked at the appearance of the heavenly being. I am sure I would be speechless too if I didn’t faint first.
Zechariah responds to the announcement from the angel in fear and disbelief. He reminds Gabriel that he is old and he and his wife are beyond childbearing years. Maybe he thought God was unaware of his age. Yet, the angel had just declared that God had heard his prayers over the years, prayers to have a family and an heir. Zechariah couldn’t accept the truth and glory of what God was saying through His messenger. How often have I argued with God when He has tried to remind me of what He is doing in my life…what he has always wanted to do in my life? Many times over I am sure.
The angel rebukes Zechariah for his unbelief and causes him to be mute until the day of the miracle, the day of his promised son’s birth. Amazingly, Zechariah’s unbelief couldn’t stop the fulfilling of God’s promise of a son. Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth did bear a son and Zechariah named him John, just as the angel directed him to.
Mary, the young virgin, responds to the angel’s announcement with curiosity and a need for clarification. I am so grateful to know that my questions do not scare God, nor display disrespect. In fact, Gabriel goes on to explain exactly what and how she will conceive of a son. She didn’t appear to question the validity of God’s promise or His ability to fulfill his promise. No, her question of, “How can this be as I am a virgin?”, didn’t indicate unbelief but actually indicated her surrender to the invitation before her. Though Mary couldn’t see how, she could see Him. She could accept that God was indeed addressing her, even though she was a young woman living in a time and place in history when it was unheard of for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to directly address a woman. Yet, not unheard of in Heaven.
Not only did Mary accept that the words of God spoken to her where real and true, but she also didn’t cower under fear. Mary responded in love though she trembled under the words. She remembered that she was merely a servant of God. She was ready and willing to respond to His invitation to join Him in what He wanted to do in and through her. God was faithful to His word to Mary. She did bear a son and they did name him, Jesus.
I hope the angels of God find me waiting and listening to God’s invitations to me. “Father, help me to respond to your invitations to work in and through me unhindered by fear so I can respond like Mary, "be it onto me as you have said".
Set my heart free to believe you, because you are trustworthy…always and forevermore.”