Reflection: We have heard Maryʼs story so many times that it can be difficult to approach with a fresh mind, free from the years of sermons, assumptions and images that we have accumulated. It may be helpful for you to take a moment to go back and read the passage again slowly, watching for anything that you may be expecting that isnʼt there, or watching for anything you may have previously missed.
Some time ago there was a song that was popular in my church which affirmed that, “in the presence of the Lord there is peace, love and healing.” I believe this is often the case, but not always. In Maryʼs case, as she was visited by this angelic messenger, we read that she was “disturbed and confused”. In my experience, these two feelings are as common in Godʼs presence as love, joy and peace. When we are faced with the presence and purpose of God, it is almost impossible for us not to be challenged, surprised, confused, disturbed, uncomfortable and even upset. When God comes to us it is always with the intention to change us (which is why Jesusʼ first sermon was “repent”) and to challenge us to become participants in Godʼs work. When God sought to be incarnated in human flesh, God sought out human partners with whom God could collaborate, and Mary, this ordinary teenage girl, was Godʼs primary co-worker.
Nothing has changed. God still seeks partners to share in Godʼs saving work. God still seeks those through whom God can be incarnated into the world (albeit in a different way). God still disturbs, confuses, changes and challenges us when we are confronted with Godʼs presence. In what ways have you experienced Godʼs presence as disturbing and confusing? In what ways is God asking you to be a collaborator with God in Godʼs saving work this Advent season?
We like to think of you as gracious and loving - easy to be with, comforting in your presence and reassuring in your coming. But, thatʼs not how Mary experienced you. Itʼs not how many people through the ages experienced you, and itʼs often not how I experience you. Help me to embrace the disturbance and confusion of your presence, O God, and show me how I can participate in your saving work. Amen.