Summary: Mary has a specian and yer probably stressful day when that Angel gove her God’s message.
In the past I used to go and pick up the kids from school. I would usually say, “so how was your day?” Normally I would get grunts and groans. Sometimes I would receive a word like boring and occasionally ok. I don’t recall more than a couple of occasions when there was any excitement in their.
It is really easy to take our days for granted. It is easy to take the regular every day patters for granted. But what happens when we have a really good day? Do we actually feel upbeat and happy? Do we sing with the radio, whistle or hum tunes that are stuck in our heads.
In the scripture reading for the advent wreath this morning we heard the story of the announcement that God was sending His Son into the world. That was a fantastic event…. An Angel, Gabriel appears to this young Jewish girl probably between 13 and 16 who is most likely having just an average day. Getting water, peeling potatoes, milking the goats, washing clothes….just a normal chore filled day
It also seems that she is alone because she has no witness to support her story.
We were reminded that she was “pledged to be married”, betrothed, or to use a more modern word, engaged. That means that the families got together and agreed that there would be a wedding. A marriage contract was prepared it defined a bride price and terms and compensation if a divorce was required by choice or for cause.
In the Hebrew culture, neither the bride nor groom were forced to marry. I am sure the pressure was often overwhelming, but the law of Moses did not force the man or woman to obey concerning marriage.
After the preliminary family discussions were settled, the prospective groom offered the prospective bride something of value. A ring was very common; however, it could be anything of value. The smallest value acceptable was of the smallest coin of the day. He placed the object in or on the young ladies RIGHT hand. So for us, the gift could be a penny. The groom says, “Be thou betrothed unto me with this ring [or object] in accordance with the laws of Moses and Israel." If the bride accepts, she will move the ring or coin to the LEFT hand and closes it.
The couple is now engaged however, there are some differences from what means to us today..
First, there was a waiting period of a minimum of one year. You might think that it was sort of like the cooling off period when buying a hand gun. Except, you could not cool off and just change your mind once betrothed, you were legally married. To call it off meant death or divorce and the betrothal contract made between the families documents the penalties.
So, once the gift was received, you were husband and wife, except that the bride stayed with her folks for the waiting period.
If this were a second marriage the waiting period was only 7 days.
It really sounds like people were patient back then.
So Gabriel speaks to Mary and says "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Greetings and highly favored sounds pretty good but it says that Mary was troubled at the greeting wondering what it meant…I can’t say I find any fault in that.
I wonder if she understood that God knew exactly who she was. The ANGEL calls her by name. If so I wonder if that gave her a comfortable feeling or was she expecting the other sandal to drop?
Perhaps waiting for the EXCEPT or however kind of word to creep in and change the tone. The angel told her the she will have a child that is special and what his name should be. She asked how and he gives a vague explanation……
If you asked her, “How was your day?”
How would you expect her to respond?
How might any of us respond to the news of having a baby outside of marriage?
Personally, that is a scary thought even today in a culture that accepts this kind of thing with disappointment and disapproval. Mary’s culture was a lot less forgiving.
The conversation between Mary and the Angel ended when Mary says Ok.
Ok, What was she thinking? She only asks one question…how can this be?
I think I might have more questions….perhaps, I would have asked to pray about it.
What about the consequences? She could be stoned…and I am not talking about drugs or alcohol…I am talking about real rocks. Real pain. Real death.
At a minimum, I am talking about people talking behind your back, sometimes just loud enough to let YOU know what they think about your – “situation” and the “story.”