In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.
I find it fascinating and quite wonderful that a piece of the birth narrative finds its way into our Lenten lectionary. Seems like a good time to be reminded how our Savior came into this world in the first place, as we walk through these days of preparation for our formal, liturgical, and deeply personal celebration of how he left it, and then re-entered in newness and magnificence.
Some of you know that I am teaching confirmation students this year — 7 girls and 4 guys between the ages of 12 and 14. Our second year students are just about the age Mary was when the angel paid that visit. And you now what? Even with the differences in maturation across the intervening centuries, I see a couple of kids in our group who just might be mature enough and committed enough to have made the list of possible mamas-to-be.
The young girl described in this passage is no flibberty-gibbet, not in the least off-handed or dismissive. She takes this strange visitor and his even stranger words at face value. She asks a logical question and expects to receive an answer. And when she gets it, she humbly bows and accepts the words as ones meant for her and for the son that is to come.
But here’s the sweetest piece of all — the angel slips in a little-known fact to reassure Mary that this seemingly impossible thing is not impossible. At all. No wonder, Mary packs her bag within the week and heads off to check out cousin Elizabeth for herself!