Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Bravery of a Young Girl

Luke 1: 26-38

Advent 2

Now, we come to Mary. Last week, we talked about Zechariah and Elizabeth, and how the angel came to him, in the innermost chamber of the temple, and how, when he disbelieved what the angel said, he was made mute.

Now, we’re six months in-Elizabeth is six months pregnant, and Zechariah is still unable to speak. And another angel shows up.

Do you see what’s going on here? The first angel appearance was made to someone whose own husband said she was getting on in years. Now, there’s an angel again, but this time appearing to someone not much older than your average eighth grader. The culture is a little different from Mary’s time to us. Marriage at this age is not unusual. And she’s already engaged, and Joseph is a good deal older; maybe 20-25? Marriage, then was also different. Joseph and Mary are engaged, but not in the sense we understand it-they have a legal contract, and Mary is already legally attached to Joseph, but they are still living in separate homes.

The angel comes. The first thing he says is “greetings, favored one!” What’s the second? The same line every angel seems to need to deliver in these stories, the same line an angel would definitely need to deliver if one came today: “Be not afraid.”

Her response, in the Common English Bible translation, is: “She was confused by these words, and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Confused indeed, I think that’s being polite. Then the angel says “be not afraid!”

The angel tells her what the plan is, who the baby will be, and Mary’s response is “Um, ok, I know I’m young and all, but how am I going to carry a baby without that first bit? And the angel says to her: Remember your cousin Elizabeth? She’s 6 months pregnant. I’m sure we've got this part covered.” And Mary says “ok, let’s go!

Isn't it great to have this amazing, omnipotent God who can do thinks like give Elizabeth a pregnancy in old age; give Mary a pregnancy while still a virgin; to have all this power, but God asks first? Imagine it was Zeus: “Wham! Oh my goodness! I’m pregnant! Gee, Zeus must have been by…”

But here comes an angel, and he says to Mary “hey, we have an idea for you…” nd she says “let it be according to thy will.”

Let’s remember what Mary is signing up for. She’s 13, and she’s already engaged. And she has just agreed to carry a child. She knows what that will do to her in her society. She and Joseph are not supposed to be having relations yet. And of course Joseph is going to know it wasn't him. We know that story-he plans on divorcing her, until an angel comes to him and says, . . .yep, that’s right! “Be not afraid!”

Mary knows what she’s signing up for, and she still says yes. She knows how her family may react, she knows how her village will react, and she’s pretty sure how Joseph will react. Now, she may not know who it is she’s carrying; she may not fully understand-the Angel was pretty clear, but a few words do not explain a lifetime. She doesn't know what Jesus as the Messiah will be, she doesn't know the great and terrible events to come. However, she does know she’s going to have morning sickness; she’s still going to be breastfeeding. She knows she’s going to be raising a child, and it is not yet clear whether she’ll be doing it alone, as a marginalized single teenager, yet, or not.

And she still says yes. The bravery of a teenage girl is what we honor when we talk about Mary.

What is it that you are being asked to do in God’s name? Perhaps you have something in your heart, which calls you into a new service. Perhaps you look at your preacher, and wonder what it takes to do that? Maybe you want to change jobs, to something. Maybe you would like very much to retire, but the budget doesn't fit, or you don’t know where the money will come from. There are as many scenarios are there are people around you, plus 10-12. But we are called at time to step out in faith; to be like Indiana Jones in the third movie, when he has to get across the chasm. He has to step out into thin air, based not on what he sees but on what he knows. So he closes his eyes, steps out and…there’s the rock bridge.

As followers of Christ, this sort of faith is what we are called to do every day.

Do you have the bravery of a 13 year old girl?

Do you have the confidence in God? I betcha, somewhere, you do. It just can take some time to find, sometimes.

Think about what it is you are being called to do. Think about what it is that you could be if you followed God one step deeper.

And hear the angels’ voice say to you as well, “Be not afraid!”

And you own voice saying back “let it be according to your will.”

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