"How will this be?"
In the Old Testament, God speaks initially to King David, in 2 Samuel 2:13-14, “He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.” David is the greatest king of Israel. The writers of the New Testament also saw this as a prophetic word looking ahead to the arrival of God-in-Jesus. To begin with, David’s kingdom had ceased to exist. So, God’s promise to King David is coming true in Jesus (“son of David”) in a way David and countless generations of Israelites could never have imagined. God-in-Jesus (“Son of the Most High,” “Son-of-God”) is God come to claim his rightful rule, his kingdom, over all Creation. “Jesus-the-King” whose “kingdom will never end.”
All this is a great scandal. The King arrives to an ordinary young lady living in a small town in an out of the way and powerless country in the great and vast and powerful Roman Empire. All this is a great scandal. Mary is likely from a rather poor and very unknown family. She is unmarried and has had no sexual relations. All this is a great scandal. Then, as it is unfortunately still assumed by some, social standing, wealth and good health are associated with ones who “have found favor with God.” This is an important insight. Think about the future this young woman faces in a small town and then as the mother of Jesus.
The question is then, what are we to learn about being ones who “have found favor with God?” Would Mary still have been “favored by God” if she had somehow rejected God’s work in her life?
The Bible offers no clear-cut answer to reluctance to fully believe the virgin birth of Jesus. Mary asks a similar question in Luke 1:35 ─ 35The 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. Interestingly, some ancient Christian theologians thought that the conception of Jesus in Mary was through her hearing the Word-of-God (literally, God speaking the Christ Child into being) through the Holy-Spirit. Being the “Son of the Most High” speaks of his intimate and eternal relationship to God-the-Father and not that his existence began at his human birth. So, the God who brings all of Creation out of nothing, now, through the power of God-the-Holy-Spirit (who is also fully God, but let us worry about that later), gives human life to the eternal Son-of-God in a way that we assume no life is ever possible – he will be born fully human to “the virgin Mary.” Because this life is also from God-the-Holy-Spirit, Jesus also remains fully God. Theologian, the late Thomas C. Oden contends, “This was not a diminution of sexuality, but an exaltation and celebration of the human body as the means God chooses to become knowable and palpably present in history (The Word of Life, 134).”
With the above in mind, what might we say about how God works in our world?
Finally, do not let our familiarity with this account blind you to the ordinariness and the amazingness (I think this is a real word) of the angel Gabriel coming to the young Mary. Ordinary – a young lady living her life. Amazingness – God breaks into her life. Amazingness – Pregnant without relationship with a man. Ordinary – Asked to bear a child as an ordinary woman.
What does this say about who God uses? We will talk more about this on Sunday.
See you Sunday.
AMEN for now,
AMEN for now.