We all know the story of Mary the Virgin as set forth in Luke’s Advent account. The angel, Gabriel, was sent to her by God to tell her that she had been chosen to be the mother of the long-expected Messiah.
After her understandable alarm and perplexity at Gabriel’s presence, and after his calming words of assurance, he gave her God’s message: “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.”
From the little we are told there’s something about this young woman that fills us with awe. Tradition says she was no more than 15. Today we would call her a teenager. Yet in being chosen by God for this mission she was the one person in all of history to be the bearer of God’s Messiah.
After Gabriel answers her question, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” and after he tells her about a miraculous birth that is to occur to an older cousin, Elizabeth, she responds with unmarred faith, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.” With that, Gabriel leaves her to live out in obedience God’s declared purpose.
But many more questions could be asked. For example how did she tell her mother about this announcement?
“Mother, last night the angel, Gabriel, talked to me.”
“He told me I’m going to have a baby.”
“Of course, Mary, when you and Joseph are married you will have children.”
“No, Mother, before that. He told me it would be a boy and he gave me the name I was to call him – Jesus.”
“Mary, you’ve been having a dream. Let me feel your forehead to see if you are fevered.”
Perhaps after a day or two her mother, a pious woman, began to sense the gravity and significance of Mary’s words.
But what about the other girls in Nazareth? Mary slipped away at least 80 miles to the south to be with her cousin, Elizabeth, and when she returned three month later her friends would see that she was pregnant. Would they giggle and snicker behind her back?
And what about her betrothed, Joseph? When he heard what was going on he actually did think of divorcing her quietly which would have been the right procedure if what he thought were true. Such a divorce would have disgraced her. Maybe even worse. But an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and headed off that course of action.
The questions could go on. The Almighty had not placed Mary on an easy road. But in his foreknowledge he knew he could trust her to carry out her mission in obedience leaning on the strength he would provide.
So, during this joy-filled season of Advent, amidst the flow of warm greetings, the shared gifts, the tinsel, and the festive moments around tables groaning with good things to eat, let us take some time daily to measure the degree of our obedience on whatever road our God has marked out for us to travel.
That road will be infinitely less significant and much less demanding of us than the one assigned the Virgin Mary, but all God’s children are assigned a road to travel in obedience to him.
(Read the story of Gabriel’s message to Mary in full in Luke 1:26-38)