Christmas is full of joy and celebration at the birth of our Savior. Advent, that season leading up to Christmas, is instead a season full of questions and wondering.
While there are many certainties around Christmas and the glorious reality of the incarnation—God with us—there are also many uncertainties and questions in the way the story played out. The script for the birth of Jesus is so utterly unusual that it has to be authentic. This is simply not the kind of story that could be invented by a clever writer.
The announcements to Mary by the angel Gabriel, “…you who are highly favored!” and “the Lord is with you” (v. 28), were not met with delight but with a sense of being “greatly troubled” (v. 29). Mary was left wondering “what kind of greeting that might be.”
In one sense, it would be quite flattering and even awe inspiring to have such kind words from an angel. But participating in a story that you never imagined poses deep questions as to what this is about.
Mary is uncomfortable with the initial announcement. When she finds out that the story involves conceiving and giving birth to Jesus, “who will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (v. 32), she is even more confused. She asks a question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” The answer is that she will enter a story beyond her understanding.
Are there still questions? Yes. But the response of Mary is to participate in this story by faith. Perhaps in Advent the Lord will invite us to take a step that we don’t understand. Are you trusting, as Mary did: “May it be to me according to your Word” (v. 38)? Let that be our prayer in this season!
Jim Singleton, Jr., Th.D.
Associate Professor of Pastoral Leadership and Evangelism