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. -Luke 1:26-38
A little over a week ago we celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection—the triumph of life over death, hope over despair, joy over anger. Yet today, we remember the Annunciation, the feast on which we celebrate Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she was with child. We are used to hearing Gabriel’s words and Mary’s joyful song of celebration during Advent; but as crocuses and tulips sprout their first buds, and swimwear, flip flops, and beach towels line the store aisles, it just seems a bit out of sync, doesn’t it? (Granted, this year, the Feast of the Annunciation was transferred from March 25 when we were in the throes of Holy Week.) What’s the good in going back when all the self-help books and snazzy quotes on Pinterest and Facebook tell us that looking back is a surefire way to miss the boat, to be mired in memories and events that we ought to forget, to watch the world pass us by? (Oh no! Clutch your pearls, my Southern friends!)
Perhaps, though, we should just let the world pass us by. It’s not as though it has a stellar track-record on the whole love-and-save-the-world piece, anyway. When we step back from the victory of Easter and into the shoes of a frightened—no, freaked out—young woman, we might be able to see how her courage in saying yes—not just to God, but to the stares and doubts of the world, enabled her to become more of the person God had intended her to become. She didn’t disregard her fears. She walked with them. Although Mary never could have imagined the twists and turns that Jesus’ life would take, she placed her fears alongside God’s faithfulness long enough to make room for a tiny baby to invade her belly and weigh down her back for nine months. It would be this baby who would go on to save her and everyone else from the belief that someone can win the rat-race…that uttering those three small words, “I am sorry,” can’t transform a bruised soul…from the lie that with a bit of hard work and ingenuity we can save ourselves.
I doubt Mary’s fears vanished forever, but for one moment she stopped trying to move ahead, remembered that God does not abandon whom God creates, and said “Let it be.”
What are the fears and doubts that walk with you today? When fear and doubt threaten you, and you feel that you are not “keeping up,” breathe deeply for one minute, and dare to imagine what could happen if amidst your fears you had the courage to remember you are God’s beloved.