One of the ongoing themes of the advent season can be summed up best by Paul in First Corinthians 13:9-10 “For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.” For all of the aspects of Hope, Love, Joy, and now Peace, all of these expressions are temporal and incomplete. Yet they continue to be goals for how we are to live and grow as people and in our faith.
This Sunday we have the very special story of when the angel goes to visit Mary. For many reasons this is a pivotal moment in the birth narrative since it is where Mary comes to her acceptance she will be carrying a very special baby. While we can speculate that there was a whole lot more conversation than what is recorded, we know that the story highlights three important things.
First, that God favored her. This does not mean that God saw her as divine or super human, but that she was one who could handle and care for a very special person. Biblically speaking, the choice of Mary was not random; there were certain criteria that had to be filled. She had to have the right lineage, be at the right age, and the time and place also had to be right, or as the modern adage goes “all the stars had to be aligned.”
Unfortunately, many people have made the argument that Mary is somewhere between human and God. This is problematic because part of the choice of Mary was her humanity and, more importantly, her innocence. Think back for a second to the story of the garden, innocents end with divine knowledge (the fruit of the tree). Mary’s innocence and purity allow Christ to enter the corrupted world in the least corrupted way possible.
Second, Mary was not the only one chosen in this plan. Elizabeth, the mother of John had been tapped to bear a son who would prepare the way. This means that Mary was not alone in her journey; in fact, we know at one point she went to be with Elizabeth. This is important, because when God tasks us with things that are more than we can even fathom, it is never tasked without help. Throughout the birth narrative, we see that consistently God places help along the way. Though not always in the way one might expect, God always is providing the help and encouragement that Mary needs to complete her role.
Third, and maybe most importantly, we are reminded: “nothing will be impossible with God.” This goes back to what Paul often alludes to in that we are only able to partially see what God has in store for us. When faced with the question of how this can happen, the reality sets in that God is bigger and more powerful than we can imagine, which means that he can make things happen that otherwise would not.
All of this is to say that Mary represents another picture of the partial witness to the fullness of God. That the love she showed and the perseverance through her fear and worry give us another partial glimpse into the fuller understanding of God.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen