Fear? Not! Luke 1:26-38
The second thing that he said to Mary was ‘fear not’, or in more modern speech ‘do not be afraid’; the first was a puzzling greeting that told her of God’s favour and presence with her.
Fear not, you will conceive and bear a son… oh, and we’ve picked out a name for him: Jesus, and Mary, there are a few thing that you should know about your boy:
-He’s going to be great
-He will have title: The Son of the Most High
-God will give him the throne of his ancestor David
-He will be King forever [Messiah]; his kingdom will not ever end.
Curiously to me, Mary didn’t ask clarification about all the king and kingdom information, or disbelieve the message about what was going to happen. Her question was practical – unlike Zechariah, who when told that his prayers had been heard and a baby was going to be born to his wife Elizabeth, asked the angel how he could be sure of this – doubting the message or the messenger – A priest, he should have known better….
Mary’s question “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” doesn’t seem to question the events foretold to her. It is more of a procedural / practical nature: I know how babies start; that hasn’t happened.
Gabriel does not get into a technical explanation – he basically explains that God will make it happen. Mary is satisfied and gives her informed assent. And then the angel left — left!
This would be where I would freak out – ummm, become rather anxious. Being visited by an angel can’t have been very comforting, and his message, somewhat less comforting. But then to be all alone again with this, this – secret, that no one else on earth could possibly believe? Excruciating!
Perhaps, after a while, when she finally remembered to breathe, and when her heart beat slowed to within the normal range for a girl of her age and build, and perhaps as she looked around and saw that she was alone in the darkness (for some reason I always imagine that the angel visit occurred at night), perhaps the angel message came back to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God,” and this was a comfort to her. I hope so. Mary had the faith to believe that God would do what he had said he would do, and that he was with her.
Her faith had allowed her to respond to God’s message with “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” That was probably the easy part. She had nine months of pregnancy ahead, and how would she be able to explain to her beloved Joseph? -and what would the neighbours think – well, we know what they would think. And this was a time when what the neighbours think might cost a girl her life, and not just her reputation.
I imagine that there were times in those nine months, and in the years beyond, right up until the end of her life, when the message from God: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God,” was the only comfort she had.
I am not Mary. I have not been visited by an angel, but I do have faith and, like Mary, I believe that God will do what he said he will do, and that he is with me. And when the people who live around me can’t understand how I can believe this stuff. I take comfort in the words of Mary’s son, Jesus “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
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