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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent, Day 26

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JOURNEY to the MANGER: Advent 2010
Luke 1:39-56
F.A. James

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, her initial response was fear (vs. 29-30). That makes perfect sense. If a being from another dimension appeared to me, I would have jumped out of my skin. Mary’s fear almost immediately turned to confusion. When the angel announced that she would miraculously bear a son, she countered, “How can this be?” Her fear and confusion give way to resignation to the divine apparition: “May it be to me according to your word.”

It would seem that her visit with her relative Elizabeth calmed young Mary’s nerves and reassured her that what was happening was indeed of the Lord. “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear!” And the fear, confusion and submission turned to the rapturous joy of the Magnificat. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

The annunciation sent Mary on an emotional roller coaster—from fear and confusion to joy. It is true that Mary has been venerated down through the centuries. Even Luther continued to venerate Mary as did many of the Protestant Reformers. But it is not veneration of Mary that emerges from this text. The primary message is that God showed favor to this young Hebrew girl and through her, God sent his Son who would “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), thus fulfilling his promise to Abraham, “just as he promised our ancestors.” To be sure, Mary was very much favored and blessed by God with a unique role in redemptive history. But to those of us living in this fallen world, she connects with us at a deeply emotional level. She reminds us that even while we are plagued with fear and confusion in this life, yet there is a joy that sustains us. The Magnificat points the way beyond fear and confusion to the joy of the magnificent faithfulness of God and his magnificent Son.

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

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