Sunday, December 18, 2011
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 forever, 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. Luke 1:26-38r
Years ago, when I was serving in a small town in Delaware, a group of clergy was getting together on a regular basis. We were trying to work together on the common concerns of our town. We had a speaker who came and talked about teens and how the most common time for girls to get pregnant was not at a party late at night or on weekends, but after school, between three and five. Most of us were taken aback. It motivated the group to work together and I am proud to say we brought together a group of community leaders who founded a boys and girls club, along with other helping organizations.
Today we hear the familiar Gospel story of Mary being visited by Gabriel. We hear fear, disbelief and concern in Mary's voice of so many years ago. We see a vulnerable teenage girl, trying to come to grips with a huge, unfair responsibility. She hadn't been bored and she hadn't fooled around but now she would suffer the consequences. If she was in school, she would lose that privilege. In her time, Mary would be shunned and physically punished. Her act of obedience to God brought shame on her family. She would be a refugee for the rest of her life. And she had only her ancient cousin Elizabeth for comfort and understanding, Elizabeth who was so old, way older than Mary's mother Anne, and so long married she would have forgotten what it was like to be so young. But God found a way to use the most unlikely people, old women and young girls to bring the living God into our aching and starving world. God used the most abnormal people to be heroes for all times. And that is surely good news to all of us who feel like the shunned, the forgotten, the unlikely, the refugee, and the abnormal. God calls these to carry the good news, to bring God into the world.
Today, may we recognize that God is calling all of us, however unlikely and shunned we might feel, to carry God's good news of love and forgiveness to our world. We might be refugees, failures and forgotten, but God never forgets us and needs every one of us to bring Christ to our neighbors, friends and enemies. We, like Mary, can feel inadequate, but may we answer today, like that child of old did, "here am I, servant of the Lord." God is inviting us this day, the most unlikely, to be part of the greatest love story ever told.