Summary: When Gabriel announced God's plan to Mary, she stood at the crossroads of Fear and Faith. Mary's response is a witness of her faith that in God all things are possible
December 20, 2020
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Mary’s Leap of Faith
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
It was just about 9 months ago that our lives changed with COVID-19. Our last Sunday for gathered worship was March 15. After worship, we gathered in Olson Hall for a meal of Potato Pancakes. We knew that this was going to be it for a while, and only God knew how long the pandemic would last.
Nine months ago…count on your fingers…everyone sheltering in place …and now the babies are coming! This past week I had the opportunity to speak with someone who works in a OB-GYN clinic in town. “So,” I asked, “Are there COVID-19 babies on the way?” “Oh, yes!” she said with a smile. Their clinic schedule is filled with prenatal visits. The first cusp of the babies are on their way.
This morning we hear a story – a very familiar one – about a baby on its way. We hear the story of Mary as she hears of God’s plan for her.
Mary is a feminine faith role model for us. She is so young, and yet she becomes the vehicle for the salvation of the world. Before all is said and done, she will feel a wide range of emotions.
We meet young Mary in Nazareth. Mary is betrothed to be wed to Joseph, a carpenter. She’s probably around 14 or 15 years old: old enough to have a baby. Mary has a good idea of where her life is headed. But that trajectory is interrupted when an angel steps into her presence.
The New Revised Standard Version of this text tells us that Mary was “much perplexed” by Gabriel’s presence. But that translation doesn’t capture the intensity of the Greek. The Greek is more like “deeply disturbed.” Mary is scared out of her wits. Gabriel has ruptured her reality. Mary senses that life as she knew it is going to change in a dramatic way.
Why should an angel from heaven visit HER? No one had called her favored before, let alone a heavenly messenger! Something monumental is about to occur.
Gabriel tries to calm Mary. “Don’t be afraid, Mary. This is good news! God is looking favorably on you. You, Mary, are about to conceive a child, a son! And this will be no ordinary child, Mary. He will be the Son of the Most High God, the Messiah!”
This is what Israel has longed for. Since the fall of Jerusalem, Israel has looked for the time when theirs power would be restored. They’ve longed for the day when they ceased to be under the dominion of a foreign power. God’s word is sure, and so they looked to the return of Israel’s Messiah. Israel had waited over 500 years for this message. And now it has come to Mary.
But Mary isn’t so sure about the news. She’s confused. How can this be? Why would God choose her? And how can she, who hasn’t had relations with a man, become a mother?
Fear, confusion. The emotions were swirling within Mary. What if she were to conceive a child? What would that mean for her? Joseph would know perfectly well the child wasn’t his. This was a serious issue! Women were stoned to death for this! If Joseph pointed an accusing finger at her, Mary would be hauled to the edge of town and stoned to death.
At the very least, Joseph could call off their betrothal Then Mary would bear this child as a single, unwed mother. How would her family respond? Would they disown her? She could be thrown onto the street with an infant. And even if her family did accept her and the baby, life would be forever altered. She would be looked at with scorn.
The only way this situation could possibly work would be for Joseph to accept her as she was, pregnant. Even though that baby wasn’t his, Joseph would have to sign on to this venture. Joseph was the key.
So Mary was confronted with a radically altered future. Even at her young age, she was very aware of her vulnerability and powerlessness in the situation. Her future was filled with peril. Her future welfare was dependent on others.
Mary was at a critical crossroads. One direction led her down a path full of hazards and peril. But the other one led away from the divine plan for the fulfillment of the Messianic promise. This was no small juncture. Mary’s destiny had been swallowed up by the divine plan.
It was an all or nothing decision. To say yes to Gabriel was a lifetime commitment. Once she said yes, there was no going back.