Mary was just a girl, about fourteen years old, when she was betrothed to Joseph. She lived in Nazareth, a dusty backwater of a town in Galilee. It was a place known for producing no-account trouble-makers. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth” (John 1:46)?
One day a messenger from God came to Mary and offered her an extraordinary proposition. The angel
informed her that God chose her to conceive and bear God’s Son who she would name Jesus.
Naturally, this came as a great shock to Mary. She was just a simple Jewish girl, recently betrothed to Joseph, the carpenter. Her first response was fear. The presence of this divine messenger scared her. She wondered: How would she explain this to Joseph? What would her parents think? What would the community think? Why did God choose her?
Mary asked: “How can this be since I am a virgin?” The angel’s reply touched her humility and faith: “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. And 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. For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:35-37).
This reply must have convinced Mary the messenger really was from God and that God was serious about this baby stuff. The angel’s last sentence helped convince Mary: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Her response was immediate: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
Mary’s response was faithful cooperation with God’s mission for the world. Mary said “Yes.” to God. She took a step of faith and trusted God with her life.
It is unfortunate that Mary has been virtually ignored in the United Methodist tradition. She has been pushed to the edges of the story of salvation. But Mary plays a critical role in God’s mission to save the world. Not only is she the one who carried God’s son in her womb, she is also the one who nursed, mothered and raised Jesus into the man who changed the world; the Savior and Lord of the universe.
Mary is the first disciple. God became flesh and lived among us in Mary. She trusted her life to God. Mary followed her son and was among the circle of disciples he gathered around himself. When the men deserted him at the cross, Mary was there with the other women who never abandoned Jesus. Mary and the other women were the first witnesses to the risen Christ on the day of resurrection.
Mary is a model of the Church as the people of God who are called to be Christ-bearers in the world. Each baptized Christian is chosen and called by God to be like Mary. When we look at Mary we see that God wants Christ to grow and be seen in each of us. As Christ is born in your heart, you bear him in the world and offer him to others.
As Mary bore Christ into the world, we bear him in our hearts. And, like Mary, God comes to us with the assurance that “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). Our fear and anxiety about the future are overcome. With God’s help, we live as Christ’s representatives in the world and Mary’s song becomes our song (Luke 1:46-55):
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.