During the Civil War in the 17th century, after the Battle of Worcester, King Charles II took refuge at the home of Colonel Lane. A plan was made for Charles to escape to France, riding part of the way disguised as a servant to Jane Lane, the Colonel’s daughter. Jane thought it an honour and privilege to assist the King even though it brought danger and fear of discovery. The King came to call her “My Life” and duly honoured her and her family upon his restoration to the throne.
An ordinary woman, Jane was caught up in events affecting a whole nation. She faithfully carried out her duty out of loyalty for one she believed to be her true King.
Mary was probably going about her everyday tasks not knowing that her life was about to be changed completely and forever. We know that she is betrothed to (and therefore legally contracted to marry) Joseph and later we learn that she sees herself as a servant of the Lord. Perhaps it’s in that faithful living of her life as the Lord’s servant that she has found favour with God.
After greeting her and calming her fears, the angel tells Mary that she will conceive and give birth to a son, to be called Jesus (“the Lord saves”).
Mary is then told that in Jesus God’s promises to his ancestor, David, will find fulfilment. God promised David that he would raise a king from among his descendants and that king would rule over Israel for ever – his kingdom would never end. Mary’s son will be called “Son of the Most High” a name which in scripture can be used to describe angels, the king on the throne of David, an individual faithful Israelite or a messianic figure. The name suggests that the one so called has a special relationship with God. In this context Luke is telling his readers that Mary’s son, in his unique relationship with God, will be the promised King of Israel, descended from David, born to save his people.
Mary wonders how this can be – that a baby should be born to her at all and that when he is born the child will be in a special and unique relationship with God. Mary’s response is not to say “this can’t happen” but to say “how can this happen?” leaving open the possibility of God acting in her life.
Mary then hears that God’s Holy Spirit will be active in the conception of Jesus in a unique way. Other agents of God’s activity have been filled with the Holy Spirit in order for them to perform their tasks but the very being of Jesus is to be the work of the Holy Spirit as a sign of God’s power in his life. In an unprecedented way, Jesus will be holy and be known as the Son of God.
We can be sure that on this, as on future occasions, Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart”. We, too, can treasure and ponder them in our hearts, listening for God speaking to us through them today.
God called an ordinary, faithful young woman going about her daily life. Mary was not expecting an angel or the extraordinary words the angel speaks to her. Let’s ponder in our hearts the thought that God can and does call, and work through, ordinary people like us.
The news that she would have a son who would be uniquely the Son of God must have been quite overwhelming for Mary. She was being told that, through her son, God’s promises to David and to her people Israel would be fulfilled. Let’s ponder in our hearts the thought that we are invited to share in the body and blood of that same Son of God, the one in whom God’s promises to the whole of creation are fulfilled.
Mary wonders how this is going to happen and is told that God’s Holy Spirit will be at work so that this child will be holy. Let’s ponder in our hearts the thought that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, through bread and wine, so that we too may be holy before God.
Mary’s simple acceptance of what is to happen shines out in a world of cynicism, doubt and disbelief. Let’s ponder in our hearts the thought that we may, with simplicity, take God at his word and accept his grace and love freely offered for our salvation.
1. Mary’s ordinary life is changed by God’s call to her to be the mother of His Son.
2. With wondering simplicity Mary accepts this awe-inspiring news that in her son God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled.
3. Our lives, too, can be changed by God as we go about our daily tasks.
4. In simple bread and wine, we accept the gift of salvation through which God’s promises to the whole of creation are fulfilled.