Speech of an angel shines in the waters of her thought like diamonds,
Rides like a sunburst on the hillsides of her heart.
And is brought home like harvests,
Hid in her house, and stored
Like the sweet summer’s riches in our peaceful barns. (Thomas Merton)
When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:26-29; context)
Alright. Over a week into our slow walk through Luke’s birth narrative, we finally meet one of the major players. Notice all the things we learn about Mary in these few short verses. We know she has some connection to Elizabeth, or else why would Luke mention Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary lives in Nazareth. She’s engaged to be married. She’s never been married before, nor done a certain activity that married people do. She is going to marry into the house of David, which is pretty cool because he was king a long time ago. And we know from Gabriel’s greeting that she’s a favorite of God’s and that the Lord is with her. These are the pertinent details that Luke decides we need to know.
Notice also that within these details, Luke provides us with a moment in time that captures the past, the present, and the future. Joseph is descended from the house of David; in this lineage, we link to the past. Elizabeth is six months pregnant and soon she will give birth to John; in this progeny, we link to the future. When Gabriel tells Mary that the “Lord is with you,” the angel brings us to the present.
It’s as if Luke chooses these details to show that, in the decision that Mary makes a few verses later, the long stretch history, the moment of the present, and the possibility of the future all converge in her womb. And, of course, that’s exactly what happens when she becomes pregnant with the Son of God. Pretty cool, huh?
One last thing: I’ve been wondering about Mary’s “confusion” concerning Gabriel’s greeting. When Gabriel met Zechariah, the first words out of the angel’s mouth were: “Don’t be afraid.” Gabriel will say the same to Mary in the next verse, but that’s not the angel’s opening greeting. No, I think that Mary was a humble soul and was confused because she would never have considered herself “favored.” And that’s probably what made her so.
Dear God, from your hand all of time and space spring. Help me to discern your movement in my past, to hope for a closer walk with you in my future, and to find you in the present. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
I leave this moment with you, God, thankful that I, too, am a player in the continued narrative of the Good News of your Son Jesus Christ.