As we journey through Luke 1 and 2 this week, we will see a multitude of responses when mortals encounter the living God, including confession, prayer and thanksgiving.
Here in Luke 1:34-38, Mary models to us the importance of obedience during this time of anticipation.
First, Mary is full of intrigue and questions in response to the angel’s declaration of Jesus’ incarnation.
She indicates this in verse 34 when she replies, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Her question is not one of doubt, but a lack in comprehension. God is about to break forth into human history and transform it forevermore in a way that Mary, as a mere mortal, simply cannot understand. He is going to use the weak and He is going to do the seemingly impossible – in many ways, but not least of which through causing a single, virgin woman to become pregnant with the King Divine.
If we pause to think about this, the implications for God’s use of Mary in the coming of Christ is astounding. His advent will transform her life forever.
From the onset, she will become socially outcast, and she along with Joseph will later have to flee for their lives as threats are made against Jesus. Even her own body will change shape as it carries the Lord inside her. It is a beautiful, yet weighty picture of how the deep, personal and intimate encounter with the coming Lord utterly changes every part of us, humans – physically, socially, and spiritually; and Mary is just beginning to take this in.
The angel responds to Mary’s questions, providing greater detail but also greater complexity to her situation.
For his answer helps her (and us) understand the Trinitarian involvement in the advent. Jesus is to be born into this world through Mary, and this will take place as the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary, while “the power of the Most High” overshadows her (verse 35); this is why we can identify Jesus as “the Son of God” (verse 35). The miraculous coming of the King Divine is brought forth by the equal involvement of each Person of the Trinity and thus, as Jesus makes His way on this earth, we see that He does not come alone, but that He represents the Father and the Spirit in His mission as well.
This is an important thing to remember as we approach advent; for in celebrating what Jesus has come to do, we are ultimately celebrating the purpose and will of the Triune God.
This explanation is sufficient, though not necessarily comprehensive. It is still an answer that cannot fully be understood, which is why the angel concludes in Luke 1:37 by saying, “For nothing will be impossible to God.” The Son of God is coming to earth; His coming will be impossible by human standards, but plausible within the realm of the divine; and His coming will change the course of human history, beginning with Mary’s own life. That is all Mary knows. But what is her response? Does she complain? Does she demand more information? No. She willing submits herself to God’s will and obeys. She says, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (verse 38).
Mary’s response of obedience should also be our posture during advent.
For those who are believers, the residence of the Holy Spirit within us presumes that we are continually encountering and engaging with the living God. These engagements are much like Mary’s initial encounter. God seeks to use us – our bodies, our words, our positions – to continue the work that Jesus began with His coming, namely, the advancement of His reign on earth, and our response, particularly as we reflect on what Christ did at Advent, should demand an ever deeper and more complete obedience to God’s will.
Want to read more? We also have a Taleh advent series in Isaiah, which you can begin reading here.