Luke 1:26-38. 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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 father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 And the angel answered 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 called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Advent is for everyone.
An angel showing up in the temple with Zechariah is not too surprising. There’s an entire Old Testament book about an angel appearing to a priest named Zechariah in the temple. It’s called Zechariah. So no big surprise there.
But here we have an angel, Gabriel (kind of a big deal), appearing to a poor, young, woman, in a “nowhere” town in a disparaged region – a city of Galilee named Nazareth. This is strange. Even for God.
Stranger still is that Mary has a full blown conversation with Gabriel. And no one is stricken mute.
Annunciation (c.1475), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
Why is this? There’s a billion Christians that would say it is because Mary is “full of grace.” Some would even pray to Mary in order to receive grace from her. Is Mary special? Yes. Is she blessed? Yes. She is the unique mother of God. Mary gave birth to the Son of God, the child who is the “Mighty God” of Isaiah 9.
But is Mary the giver of grace? Does the grace of God come to us through Mary? No. Mary is highly favored. Or “highly graced.” That means she had to receive grace just like you and me. In her Magnificat, Mary will declare her own need for salvation – “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
The big idea of Luke’s account of Gabriel’s announcement to Mary is not to show us that Mary is sinless, or “full of grace,” or someone to be venerated just below God himself. The point is to show us that we are all Mary. Just as Christ would physically be IN Mary, we too experience the spiritual reality of Christ IN us.
What makes this angelic advent so beloved, so heart warming, so welcoming is that we can all find ourselves in her. If you are a Christian, if you have received the advent of Christ into your own life, then you have felt the surprise, humility, and yet great joy of Mary. You have asked “how can this be?” You have declared “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” You have felt the shock of being called “favored one.”
You see these aren’t just the experiences and emotions of Mary. They are the experiences and emotions of you and me. In Christ we are all the highly favored ones. How? Because the grace is from the baby Jesus, from God, from the Spirit. The same grace Mary received is the grace you and I have received. No less, no more. If God can use a virgin to give birth, then he can save and use you. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing is impossible for his grace.
The virgin Mary didn’t make Jesus’ life. Jesus was a gift to her. His life was given by God and placed into her life. United to hers. By grace. The same grace that is for us all. Why? Because advents are for everyone. God is for everyone. Jesus is for everyone. Will you be for him?
Do you see yourself as “Mary?” Do you believe that God’s grace can achieve the impossible, even your own transformation? Have you said to God in obedience “let it be unto me”?
Can you here the angel saying to you, “Greetings favored one, the Lord is with you!”?