John Alan Turner

Speaker, Author, Mentor, Coach, Facilitator

Advent Reader -- Day 16

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled." Then the angel left her.

And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me -- holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors." (Luke 1:26-38, 46-55)

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God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. (James 4:6)

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An angel promises Mary crazy things, and tells her, "No word from God will ever fail."

And that was enough for her. "May your word to be be fulfilled," she said.

This may be what leads to all of the blank-stare statues of Mary, the smiling passivity that looks upon a manger baby. But does this really make sense? Mary had to be terrified! She had to know there would be smirks and whispers; by law, she could have been stoned to death. A weaker person would not have responded the way she did.

Perhaps terrified gave way to bold as the word of the Lord came to her through the angel. Perhaps "May your word to me be fulfilled" really meant "Let's do this!"

Though she did not understand the how and why, the long-awaited Messiah would come through her. God had given her his word. And that was enough. Mary began to worship.

There is a joy that follows a difficult submission to God, a joy that will have to be remembered and held onto when the long obedience becomes nearly unbearable. It is what sustains us and compels us to worship in the midst of deep suffering, to find companionship with the one who suffered everything for our sakes.

And so she did. Magnificat. A bursting forth in song.

Was Mary writing this song herself, or were generations of people singing through her, somehow, supernaturally, by the power of God? What matters is that the song sustained Mary. And because she endured the Son that came after the song has sustained generations of humble worshipers like her ever since.

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O Lord, you are the God of the unexpected. Just when I think I have a clear idea of where things are heading, you appear and intervene in the most astonishing and creative ways. When this happens, I am reminded again that my field of vision is so limited that I can only see as far as the first bend in the road ahead. You have said that my faith in you is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. When I hope in you, I hope in what I do not see, and I pray that I will persevere in waiting eagerly for the realization of all that you have promised. To trust in what you call me to do and to obey your direction often does not make sense to my eyes. Nevertheless, having come to faith in Christ Jesus, I know that I have no other viable option but to echo Mary's words: "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled."