Saturday, February 14, 2009

Believing the Unbelievable

Luke 1:26-45 (The Message)
God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin's name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
Good morning!
You're beautiful with God's beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great,
be called 'Son of the Highest.'
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob's house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom."
Mary said to the angel, "But how? I've never slept with a man."

The angel answered,
The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
the power of the Highest hover over you;
Therefore, the child you bring to birth
will be called Holy, Son of God.

"And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God."

And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her.

Mary didn't waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah's house, and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,
You're so blessed among women,
and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
believed every word would come true!

Every now and again I really long for the days when I was very young, and believed whatever I was told. I am a still gullible person -- I always get "got" by the same joke over and over again. I fall for it every single time. Usually, I just feel stupid. But I like to feel smart, like being older makes me wiser. I don't like to believe something fantastic and then get taken.

But I do love to believe the possibility of the fantastic. Once in awhile, usually a great while, I even feel privileged. To be innocent and gullible isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Like Mary, in the passage that was in my daily reading, today -- I've printed some of it for you above. From the sound of it, the experience scared Mary to death, at first. But she believed it because . . . well, why not? An angel told her it would happen and so it would. As if she were hearing the words from a parent, or a trusted friend. Or reading it in a schoolbook.

The only real reason this stands out to me is that Mary was a wide-eyed young girl -- as opposed to Zechariah, who earlier in the chapter didn't believe the angel who told him that he would have a son. Interesting contrast there, isn't it? Older man who is a priest, well-known and respected in the community -- who really should have the good sense to believe a holy angel when he receives news -- as opposed to the young woman, who should have questioned it and consulted someone older and wiser -- could this be true?

The invisible nobody of the culture, versus the notable somebody of the culture.

Once again, the kingdom of the upside-down. The opposite of the "wise" way is God's way. That just never ceases to amaze me.

Imagine the reaction of those around Mary when -- and if -- she had told anyone else. Today, there would be pundits and skeptics and talk shows and gossips buzzing with all sorts of theories on what happened and why.

I'm sure the gossip went on and on. Or would have, if she told anyone. Probably she didn't.

Probably she saved the news for the one person she knew would believe her -- Elizabeth.

Elizabeth greeted her with such joy and an immediate unconditional welcome. If Mary had any doubts before, this would have dispelled every one -- here was a person who didn't look at her with those pitiful eyes that said "well, honey, if you believe it's true, then I believe you."

Who needs pity when you're looking for confirmation?

Elizabeth saw her with joy and welcomed her and above all, believed her. And praised her for believing God!

Maybe Mary finally felt vindicated when she saw Elizabeth. Maybe she felt that childlike innocence that says "I knew it! I knew it was true! I knew I didn't imagine it!"

She follows this with a song of absolute praise to God. Probably some kind of happy dance, too.

Maybe at this point, it hadn't all sunk in, all the ramifications of what would happen. Maybe, at this point, she was just the chosen one of God. Maybe she was just glad it really wasn't a dream, or a hallucination, or any of those things all the wiser, older people would have said it was.

Maybe -- it was enough that it really was true. Now she could go and let the rest of the world in on this wonderful happening. And they could say what they liked, because she knew it was true.

And indeed it was true.


1 Comment:

Debbie said...

Her faith was amazing, wasn't it. Great post.