Part One of the plan is underway: John the Baptist, who will later prepare the way for Jesus, has been miraculously conceived. Six months later, Gabriel visits another childless woman with another mind-blowing announcement.
Throughout this first chapter of his Gospel, Luke switches between Elizabeth’s story and Mary’s story, inviting us to compare their experiences. Like Elizabeth, Mary will miraculously conceive a child, but her circumstances couldn’t be more different.
Elizabeth had waited for a child all of her married life, and reached a point where she had probably given up hope. Gabriel’s announcement to her, while surprising, was likely one which brought her joy. Maybe there would have been a few raised eyebrows and jokey comments about these older parents, but we get the sense that their community would have rejoiced with them.
Mary was in a quite different position. For her, an unmarried young woman engaged to a young man, a sudden pregnancy was going to mean social death. Who was going to believe that this child was conceived by a miracle? Imagine someone saying that today? What thoughts must have run through her mind as Gabriel spoke to her? She probably assumed that she would lose her future husband and be branded as a cheat and a liar for the rest of her life, an outcast with nobody to support her or her child.
And yet she says: I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.
Her faith is staggering really. All of Israel had been waiting for the promised Messiah for centuries. Perhaps many women had hoped they would be the one to bear him, but there’s a huge difference between idle imagination and the shocking reality of a huge warrior angel arriving to tell you that God has chosen you for the job!
Mary trusted God. What if today we said, like her, “I am the Lord’s servant”, and decided to follow His lead, whatever the consequences?