Gabriel’s Message (Luke1:26-38)
Having set in motion the series of events we call the first Christmas, the angel Gabriel has a second visit to make. Six months have passed since he informed the elderly priest Zechariah that his prayer was being answered. His grey-haired wife is now in her third trimester, savouring every moment of this long-awaited blessing. The angel now makes a visit to Elizabeth’s young cousin, Mary.
“Good morning, daughter of God’s Chosen People. You’re more chosen than you realized! God is with you!” Even the most joyous of Gabriel’s greetings strike hearers with a certain amount of fear and this one is no different. Like Zechariah, Mary is surprised and not a little frightened. She has never before had a response to her morning prayers like this.
“Don’t worry, Mary, God sees your heart and likes what He sees; He has found in you someone who is simple enough to be responsive to His will.” Gabriel goes on to explain how God’s presence in her will take on new proportions. She will bear the Father’s Son through the conceiving work of the Holy Spirit. She will deliver the long-awaited Deliverer of mankind. The covenant made by God millennia earlier to bless all nations through an offspring of Abraham will be fulfilled in the child she will bear.
The angel’s one instruction to her? “Give him the name Jesus.” Call him Jeshua. Yahweh saves. The Regent of heaven will come to humanity, a baby born of a virgin. Mary doesn’t understand it fully but accepts the angel’s words. She submits to Yahweh’s will.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” she replies. “May it be to me as you have said”.
Like Mary, we who have submitted ourselves to the greater authority of God are sometimes surprised and a little fearful of His plans for and through us. His greatest plan is to transform us from within, through that same Jesus Mary bore. The eternal life of Jesus pulses within our being as a result of our own servant-like attitude. Like Mary, the greatest daily prayer we can breathe is to say, “I am the Lord’s servant; may it be to me as you have said.”
Speaking through an earlier servant, the prophet Isaiah, God reveals His heart to those who will listen: “This the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” Our acceptance of the indwelling life of Jesus in us can transform us into people esteemed by God. We know ourselves well enough by now. Humility does not come naturally to us humans. To be contrite in spirit? Not easy. To tremble in awe of God’s plans without doubting that He is able? Rarely. Yet this is what God wants for us today. The life of His Son is to be at our core, empowering us, flowing through us, moving us to love those around us. It starts with a prayer of submission. Let’s pray it.
‘O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell: Oh, come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!’