Luke 1:26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’* The angel said to her, ‘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.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation story has inspired generations of artists, poets, and composers for centuries. It is difficult to hear the story and not have images come to mind, whether it is the famous Fra Angelico work or even the depiction of the Annunciation that is carved in the reredos of St. Mary’s Chapel in the National Cathedral. Mary is inevitably depicted as peacefully and reverently receiving the “good news” from the angel Gabriel. If one spends much time, reflecting on the reality of the situation, however, it would have been anything but an irenic, pastoral scene.

First, we know from the culture of the time that Mary would have been about twelve years old, and she was betrothed to Joseph. Betrothal in that day meant that there was a one-year period of engagement in which there were no sexual relations. How in the world could Mary, a twelve-year-old poor peasant explain her pregnancy to her family, Joseph, her community? Second, how would you have responded with the sudden appearance of an angel telling you that God had selected you to bear God’s son? I don’t know about you, but that would have had me more than perplexed!

The “Greetings favored one!” would turn her life upside down, and yet, and yet, Mary said yes. Sometimes the call of God makes no human sense. Despite the teaching that God’s ways are not our ways, we still persist in believing that life is supposed to unfold in an orderly, predictable pattern. In this season of Lent, we are invited to be particularly attentive to what and where God might be calling us. We are about one week away from Holy Week. Take some time to slow down, be still and listen for that still small voice of God calling you and giving you your charge. And may we like Mary say, let it be with me according to your word.


Collect for The Annunciation:

Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord; that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought unto the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. (Lesser Feasts and Fasts)


The Rev. Canon Jan Naylor Cope