As I learned from a Facebook post from our priest, today is a rare event in our religious calendar. In modern times, the Annunciation and Good Friday rarely fall on the same day – in fact, it will be 141 years until the next occurrence. Earlier in our history, however, the two days were traditionally celebrated on the same day, marking the day that Christ was conceived with the day he would die. His mother, Mary, of course, is intimately connected with both of those events. It was to her that the angel delivered the news of what was to come…
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The 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[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
-Luke 1: 26-38 (NIV)
…and it was Mary who also witnessed her son crucified.
Could Mary have understood what would happen to Jesus so many years later after she received this message from Gabriel? I admit, I can’t fully comprehend what she might have thought or have known. I do know that finding out that you are unexpectedly pregnant comes with a certain amount of worry and anxiety, even if the news is welcomed after the initial shock. It should be noted, though, that I live in the 21st century, and I was already married when I discovered my surprise – a marked difference from Mary’s experience. Also, my news came via a pregnancy test and not an angel!
I also know, though, that we find plenty of other examples of people throughout the Bible who were asked to do big things, and they initially hesitated. Moses worried about his speaking ability. Jonah did not want to preach in Ninevah. Esther was hesitant to appear before the king without being called for. Mary, though…..Mary was brilliant (and I mean this in the best British usage of the word). “I am the Lord’s servant,” she said. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” The prayer she sang while with her cousin Elizabeth is a model for us all:
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.
– Luke 1: 46-56
Her Savior is our own. Though the sun sets on this Good Friday, it will soon be time for us to rejoice.
A Collect for Mary
Most merciful God, you announced the birth of our Savior to your servant, Mary. Help us to follow her obedient path, marveling in what has been decreed, and yet willing to let it be. Grant this for the sake of your son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.