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Gabriel strikes again!
The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women! " But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.
Then the angel said, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month of her who was called barren. With God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word."
Now Mary arose and went into the hill country with haste and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. . . . And Mary said: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; Behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. He who is mighty has done great things for me. He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty." Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and returned to her house. Luke 1:26-56 NKJV, condensed
Mary, God Loves You Dearly!
Gabriel was a busy angel. First Zacharias and now Mary. Again he is full to bursting with good stuff and out it flies, "Mary, rejoice. Be full of God' joy. God looks upon you with favor. You are blessed among women."
Mary seemed more troubled by the words of the greeting than the angel's presence. What manner of greeting is this? Sweet Mary, this is just the beginning, the first line. Wait till you hear the rest of the message!
"Do not be afraid of my greeting, Mary, God loves you dearly. You will bear a son and call him Jesus, and he will reign on David's throne forever!" Mary, this is BIG. God is doing something way beyond your wildest imagination.
Mary processed this information as best she could and came up with this straight-forward response, "How can this be? I am not married." It is natural for us to think in human terms, even when dealing with the divine. Gabriel explained how God was going to do it and added that her relative Elizabeth, although old and barren, was going to bear a son also. Nothing is impossible with God! Oh Mary, this will be a holy birth, not like the real world.
When Mary spoke again she committed herself to God's plan. She didn't understand it, but she was willing. God could do whatever God wanted to with her life. In the spirit of youthful excitement and adventure, Mary said, "Bring it on; let it be as you have said." Sweet Mary, you are very brave, very trusting.
That's how it began. Mary's do-with-me-as-You-will life. Immediately she rushed off to visit Elizabeth. Mary's parents are not mentioned in this story. Parents live in the real world; Mary was now living in the realm where nothing will be impossible for God. How lonely to have wonderful news of an angel visitation and not have anyone to believe and appreciate it.
Mary went to Elizabeth. She would understand. Elizabeth affirmed Mary immediately and exclaimed, "Blessed are you because you believe that what God said will be accomplished!" God had chosen an old one and a young one. One too old, the other a virgin. Neither had to wait in isolation. They had each other. Both knew God's intervention; both needed strength and encouragement. Together they would share three amazing and unforgettable months.
Before Mary left Elizabeth's home, there's a climax to their visit. Mary sang a beautiful song, rejoicing in God who does such great and unexpected things. God's forever mercy! God's mighty deeds--scattering, lifting, filling, helping! God's marvelous surprises, reversing the usual order of things! An exuberant moment, shared and stored in their memories, giving confidence to carry on.
We know from Mary's song that she was class-conscious and identified with those on the bottom rung of the social ladder. It's no wonder she marveled and took such pleasure in God choosing her, instead of selecting someone from the top. Mary, mother of King Jesus, we don't know what you expected. But remember, it was God speaking, so you can forget the usual notions about kings and kingdoms.
David's kingdom had been barren for many generations. Similar to old Elizabeth having a baby, so David's kingdom will be re-born, not in the old style, but now a spiritual kingdom which shall never end. Jesus will be crowned in the hearts and minds of those who believe in him, starting with Mary. Jesus does reign now and forever. That is the kingdom that still survives, standing tall and strong when all other kingdoms on earth have fallen.
Mary possessed a faith that did not worry, and she returned home before Elizabeth's baby was due. Mary trusted Elizabeth into God's care and keeping, knowing whatever God did would be OK. Mary was young and had a long life ahead of her. In time and sooner than she knew, her journey would twist and turn through some very dark valleys. Her faith would be tested and her joy mixed with sorrow.
But for now, today, sing with joy from your heart and soul. Fly, sweet Mary, fly. Rise as high as you like. Soar with praise. Dance through the bright skies of your spirit till you touch the face of God. He loves you dearly.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: When you were a teenager and you had something important to talk about, where did you go?
Imagine what mom and dad and brothers and sisters said to Mary when they heard her story of the angel's visit. What are some possible reactions they may have had? Is there any significance to the fact her family is not mentioned?Does your family support the decisions you make regarding religion and faith?
The words of Gabriel came in three parts: The greeting: You are highly favored and blessed among women! The message: Don't be afraid; you will bear King Jesus! The explanation: With God nothing will be impossible!What was Mary's response to each part?Which words of Gabriel were most difficult to believe? For Mary? For you?
Mary said: "I am your servant. Do with me what you will." Zacharias had said: "How can I know for sure?" (Luke 1:18) Discuss how these two responses are different. How do you respond when God has a task for you? Do you have to understand in order to believe?
As Christians, we live with the realities of this world and with the faith statement, "With God all things are possible." How are we to deal with these seemingly opposing points of reference? What is the secret to being able to live with faith in the real world? Does faith produce unrealistic expectations? If so, is this a problem?
Mary expressed her joy in the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth. Where and how do you express joy? What is it about religious experience which makes it so hard for one person to explain it to another?What do we learn about Mary from her song? (Magnificat, Latin for "glorifies")
A faith that does not worry--Is there such a thing? Is it a worthy goal?Were there some things Mary should have been worrying about?Do you think she was as carefree as she sounded?
God loves you dearly. God loves each one of us. But do we really believe that? Does God love some people more than others? How can we know for sure that God loves us?