Passages: Luke 1:26-38 & Luke 1:46-55
When we used this talk we had some of our young people create dramas from each of the two passages and video them before the service. We then used the first passage before the talk and the second (the Magnificat) during the talk itself.
We’ve probably heard the story of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary plenty of times over the years. For those of you, and I’m sure there aren’t many, who have never heard the story before the bible tells it a little like this.
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 favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Now. If you’re wondering why Mary was so troubled by this greeting (other than the fact that it was from an angel…) this might help you to enter into it a little:
Imagine you’re at home doing the hoovering one day and the phone rings. You answer it and an automated voice at the other end of the line says:
“Congratulations!! You have won £1million!”
Your first reaction is probably one of shock or surprise. Why would I have won £1million? I don’t remember buying a ticket? Your second reaction would probably be suspicion. Is this real? Is it a con? When are they going to ask for my bank details?
I reckon this is probably pretty similar to Mary’s reaction as described by Luke.
First is the shock and surprise – Me? Favoured by God? I don’t remember doing anything especially good? I tidied the house yesterday but you don’t normally get an angel for that? Right? Surely?
Then comes the suspicion – Where is this going? The Lord is with me? What is this guy going to ask me to do?
The angel is ready for this and doesn’t waste much time:
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour 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.”
I imagine at this point there was a bit of an awkward silence as Mary tried to process what the angel was telling her.
I think that we’re so used to seeing nativity plays that we read the next bit wrong.
Imagine the school play – Angel Gabriel, dressed in a white sheet with a bit of tinsel for a halo, and Mary in the blue outfit.
Angel Gabriel says his bit and then Mary says in a perfectly rehearsed calm, cool and collected manner:
“How can this be? For I am a virgin.”
As calmly as that? I think not. You see we’ve heard this story so many times that it just becomes normal, almost like Mary is expecting the news as she has heard it for a couple of thousand years. But it isn’t normal. It definitely wouldn’t have felt normal to Mary, this was 100% not a line that she was expecting to hear!
Mary is probably somewhere around 14 or 15 years old. She is engaged to be married. To suddenly find out that she is pregnant is a game changer. A life changer even. She could lose Joseph. And that, for Mary, is pretty serious. If Joseph disowns her she is well and truly on her own. No-one else will be looking after her or the baby. That’s it. Done. A life sentence. So when she says “How can this be?” I imagine she said it with a little more oomph. I imagine she was thinking “What on earth do I do next? What is the next step?”
Gabriel tells her that it is all sorted. God has orchestrated it and has a plan and Mary’s response is incredible:
“I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you say”
A few verses later in Luke’s Gospel Mary sings a song of praise to God. (At this point get someone else to
read the Magnificat/perform dramatic reading)
I imagine for Mary (and for Joseph) the birth of Jesus brought a great deal of joy. But he also came with great risk! Yet Mary’s showed willingness to serve God whatever the cost and to do it joyfully.
In a few days we celebrate the birth of Jesus. At the end of the service we’re going to sing about that as we sing “Joy to the world” and it was a joyous occasion. God stepping into the world in human form, repairing the relationship between humankind and God. But, as with Mary, for each of us there will be challenges to face, risks to take. Are we ready to follow Mary’s example and to serve God even when it isn’t convenient to us and not only to serve but to do it joyfully?
The stations that followed this talk were: