Mary and Gabriel, Part 1
20th December 2014
Having come to Zechariah to prophesy the conception, birth and life of John the Baptist, Gabriel comes to Mary, to prophesy the conception, birth and life of Jesus Christ.
Mary was a teenage girl (probably) from an unfashionable Galilean town. Nazareth was never even mentioned in the Old Testament, and it had a bad reputation. As Nathaniel asked in John 1v46, "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"
The last time Gabriel spoke to a human, it was to promise a child to an old married couple - Zechariah and Elizabeth, past their child-hearing years. This time, he promises a child to a virgin, before her child-bearing years. Last time, Gabriel brought good news to a priest, standing in the Holy Place. This time, he comes to speak to a girl, in an ordinary northern town. God speaks to the old and the young, to city dwellers and to country folk, to those who work as priests and those who work on the farm.
Last time, Gabriel came to prophesy a great prophet - John the Baptist. This time, he comes to prophesy the Messiah - Jesus.
In some ways, Mary is a picture of every Christian. Perhaps we can even say she was the prototype - the first Christian. Jesus came into her life first. Whether through an angel, or through another Christian, or a Bible reading, or a sermon, or a song, or some other channel, God says to every Christian, and to everybody who's been chosen by God and is in the process of becoming a Christian, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." God greets us, welcomes us, comes into our lives, and speaks.
God has highly favoured us, pouring his grace into our lives. And God is with us. Jesus is called Immanuel (Isaiah 7v14, 8v8, Matthew 1v2) which means "God with us".Jesus did even more than come to live among humans. He did even more than die on the cross to pay for our sins. For every Christian - all who turn from our wrongdoing and put our faith in Jesus - He comes to live in us by His Holy Spirit.
Like most of us when we first encounter God as more than a metaphysical concept - when we actually have an experience of God - Mary's first reaction is to be troubled. She was disturbed in her mind and in her emotions. She wondered what was going on. What was happening to her? What would happen next? Why was she chosen? I think all right-thinking people know that we don't deserve to be chosen by God. So when God reveals something of Himself to us - when we have our first profound spiritual experience, we wonder if it's real. We wonder if we'll cope. We wonder what'll happen. And we wonder - why us?
Although he's already described Mary as "you who are highly favoured", Gabriel needs to say it again. He says, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God".
Every Christian, and everybody who's been chosen by God and is in the process of becoming a Christian, needs at some point to ask themselves, "Am I going to try to keep control of my life, or am I going to trust God?"
God is trustworthy. We can trust Him infinitely more than our friends, or our families, or even ourselves. God is faithful and true. We let others down, and we let ourselves down. But God never fails. God will never abandon us. God loves us more than we can understand. But God is also wiser than we can understand, and God will make decisions that we can't fathom. Will we trust Him when He doesn't do the things we expect, or the things we want? I think that depends on whether we truly believe that God is trustworthy, faithful and powerful, and that He loves us. He does, of course, but do we really believe it?
If we have the gift of genuinely trusting God, then we need not be afraid. All true Christians have God's favour. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:31, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" God will protect us, and He will lead us home in the end.
May God enable you to put your trust completely in God, welcome every encounter with Him and His servants, believe and accept what He tells you, and thus experience the radical transformation of your life that glorifies God and brings you true freedom.
To be continued.