Going Deeper 12.18.2020

The Gospel reading for Advent 4... Luke 1:26-38

26In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32He 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. 33He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The 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. 36And 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. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38Then 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.

Soon after this Mary departed to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who proclaimed Mary as "The most blessed of all women."  Blessings do often come in strange forms!  For Mary, this great honor would involve a lot of difficulty and hardship.

We do know a good deal about Mary’s life. We know enough from both historical tradition and the Bible to gain a fairly broad perspective on her. According to the Gospel of James, a second century writing which was not accepted into the Biblical canon, Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna.  In the Bible, we first meet Mary when she was a probably in her early teens, because in that culture that was about the time when fathers made arrangements for their daughters to be betrothed.  Mary’s father arranged for his daughter to be engaged to a carpenter named Joseph.

Their engagement probably lasted one year. During their engagement, the couple would become acquainted, begin building their relationship and hopefully start to fall in love with each other.  Jewish law took engagement seriously, stating that if Joseph died, Mary would be a widow and if she died, he would be a widower.  If they separated, it was called a divorce.   And, of course, for Mary to become pregnant prior to the end of their engagement would be judge as adultery, punishable by stoning to death.  This might be one reason Mary left town.  

Of course, the hardships and heartbreak would continue... all the way to the cross.  Mary would see her son become a man very much beloved by some and very much hated by others.... and she would see the haters seemingly win.   And then she would see her son resurrected from the dead.  What a journey!

One of the many things we can learn from Mary's story is the truth that being "blessed" does not mean having things easy, gaining prosperity and ease.  No.  Being blessed in the highest form comes from being used by God to be a blessing to others... and sometimes that is painful and hard work.  Thus, Mary was indeed "The most blessed of all women."

With You in His Love,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor

Zion Lutheran Church, Wellington

"Gratefully Growing Servants"