The angel appears to Mary

by Alison Shaw
Luke 1: 26-38

Today is the second Sunday in advent. We are looking forward to Christmas and the countdown has started. We light a candle on the advent crown, and you may have an advent calendar. I have a chocolate advent calendar.

In our Bible reading today we heard about Mary, a young woman who lives in a small town called Nazareth. She has recently become engaged to Joseph, a local man who is a carpenter. Mary will have a plan. They’ll get married in a few months’ time, maybe move into their own house and start a family.

However, things don’t go to Mary’s plan. The angel Gabriel visits Mary, startling her and gives her some news that COMPLETELY turns her world upside down! The angel told her that she was going to have a baby, but not with Joseph. This baby was coming soon and is the son of God!

In Jewish families it is common for the first child to be named by their father, the second child by the mother, and so on in turn. The name given to a child is believed to define them and possibly affect their personality, so children are given names that have strong positive meanings.

The angel tells Mary that the baby is to be called Jesus. This shows that God is the father because he has chosen the name, and the name Jesus means ‘saviour’ or ‘salvation’.

The angel goes on to tell us more about Jesus: ‘He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His
kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32-33)

So this is not just going to be any baby, but a very special one. Mary’s world had been shaken by the angel’s news. Verse 38 says that Mary accepts what the angel had said: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

Our lives this year have been completely turned upside down in ways that none of us could ever have imagined. We’ve had to stay at home for months. We’ve had to work from home or do home-schooling. We might have been furloughed or lost our job. We might have had to work more, and school feels very different now.

We’ve had to change how we show people we love them. Instead of meeting up and hugging them, we’ve had to keep a safe distance. We’ve re-examined what brings us happiness and what is important to us.

Christmas is only a few weeks away and this year we’re having to make new plans to celebrate. As we open the doors on the advent calendar, we notice that they are not in a fixed pattern. The direction keeps changing and it can feel like things are all over the place. Much like our life at times! Was I surprised that there was a chocolate behind the door? No, because it says on the box that underneath each door is a chocolate.

And as our lives go through unexpected twists and turns, we need to remember that underneath it all God is with us. Our plan is not the same as God’s plan, and God’s plan is always greater and better. Isaiah 41:10 says ‘Do not be afraid—I am with you! I am your God—let nothing terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you.’

Powerful words, and something that we can cling on to in difficult times. As Christians we have a reason for the season, not just a party and some presents to brighten up December. No matter what it might say in the newspapers, Christmas isn’t cancelled this year – let’s look forward and celebrate the birth of Jesus!

Lord, we thank you that You are the hope living in us, You are the rock in whom we trust. You are the light shining for all the world to see – Lord we believe! Amen.