Today March 25 we celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation i.e. when Gabriel appears to Mary to tell she would become pregnant and a son to be called Jesus. So its nine months to Christmas and no, no one actually knows when the annunciation actually happened. Its celebrated now because Jesus birth is celebrated on December 25. However the church here is not worried about when these events may have happened but what they represent and speak to us now. So what does the annunciation have to say to us in the 21st century? Follow me as I try to answer that question.
The story of the Annunciation is found in Luke 1:26-38 when the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary to deliver a message to her from God. He starts off by telling Mary she is blessed above all women to which Mary reacts with fear and wonderment at the greeting. Then Gabriel tells Mary that she has found favor with God and will become pregnant and bear a son that she is to name Jesus. He then goes on to describe the type of man Jesus would be to which Mary asks how will this happen as at this point she and Joseph are engaged to be married and she has had no sexual relations with him or anyone else so therefore in the natural impossible for Gabrielâ€™s words to come true. Gabriel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her so that the son she bears will be called the Son of God. Maryâ€™s response is that she is the handmaid of the Lord and let it be according to Gabrielâ€™s words. Thereby she shows total surrender and submission to the will of God for her without question.
We might think that Mary might have thought twice before accepting Godâ€™s will for her. After all at some point the neighbors would find out about her pregnancy and I doubt they would have bought her story about being pregnant by the Holy Spirit. They would have presumed there was only one way for Mary to be pregnant and that was either she and Joseph had had sexual relations or she had relations with some other man. At best they would probably have ostracized her, thought of her as a whore perhaps and the son she would bear as illegitimate. At worst they would have stoned her to death for fornication or adultery. Then there was Joseph who would be publically disgraced once the news got out that his fiancĂ© was pregnant especially if he wasnâ€™t responsible for her becoming pregnant. What would he do? Would he call the wedding off? Since they were legally engaged there was only one way to end their engagement which was by divorce so is that what Joseph would do? Would he do what the law said he should do and expose her to the elders of the city so they could take her outside the city and stone her to death? Yet none of those things bothered Mary she said simply yes God do with me as you will.
How do we react when God speaks to us? Do we have a long list of reasons why we canâ€™t do it, or its impossible, or God has made a mistake and needs to go find someone else to do the job? Are we ready to talk ourselves out of the blessing God wants to give us or can we like Mary simply say yes Lord do as you will. Gabriel also tells Mary that her relative Elizabeth is in her sixth month of pregnancy. Gabriel had visited her husband Zechariah in the temple to tell him that his wife would have a son known to history as John the Baptist. He doesnâ€™t believe and is struck dumb unable to speak for nine months until the birth of his son. Mary goes at once to visit Elizabeth and receive confirmation of all that Gabriel had spoken to her. Because of the willingness of Mary to accept Godâ€™s will for her, Jesus could be born, go on to die on the cross of Calvary and then three days later rise again. Also because of that decision the way of salvation is opened to all who believe and a movement is launched which is still benefiting our world today.
It is in accepting the will of God unquestionably that allows him to use us and miracles to happen. On the other disbelief or unbelief closed the hand of God to where nothing can happen. God wants to change us and through us change our world. It will take our cooperation even as it did with Mary for God to use us. Let us be like Mary surrender to do regardless of circumstances and see what God can and will do for a people totally surrendered to him.
Brother Lawrence Damien Cos