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. – Luke 1:34-38
As if it weren’t enough to suddenly see someone unexpected as she was sitting in her home, quietly working or praying, the young woman known as Mary was given news that would confound anybody. To be told she was going to become pregnant yet not yet a wife must have been a moment that seemed a lifetime long. Even though she was betrothed, a pregnancy now could literally end her prospects for marriage and shame to her family. I wonder how long it was before she could draw a normal breath.
The news of her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy may or may not have been a shock. Perhaps someone from Elizabeth’s home town had passed the word on to Mary’s family or perhaps this was the first any of them had heard of it. In any rate, the family would have counted it a miracle since both Elizabeth and Zechariah were not exactly young newlyweds. They would have rejoiced with Elizabeth that the shame of her barrenness was about to be erased, but what would they think if they found their own daughter and kin was suddenly in the same condition?
We often speak of Mary’s meekness in assenting to such an announcement. Being a good and righteous daughter, she would have been brought up to respect authority and to do what was required of her as a daughter of the house. This, though, was a different kind of authority, one she barely had time to evaluate for herself and certainly not one she had been brought up to expect. Being meek, however, does not mean being a doormat. A doormat has had all choice removed from them and their sole purpose is to obey any order given them without compunction or hesitation. Somehow I can’t see Mary as a doormat. A humble person, yes, but definitely not so meek as to be submissive because she felt she had no choice.
I think Mary was a person of rare courage. What convinced her that what this person was saying was true? What made her assent to such an unthinkable scenario? How was she going to manage the effects not only on herself and her body but the shame of her family and the sly looks and whispered words of her neighbors? Mary did say yes, and, even though acknowledging that she was a servant of the Lord, she took a gigantic leap of faith.
During Advent there probably won’t be many of us asked to take giant leaps of faith such as Mary did, but we aren’t called to be meek in accepting the jobs God has for us to do, whether we are aware of them or have yet to discover them.
Perhaps now is a good time to practice saying, “Here am I, a servant of the Lord” and let God take over.