The Faith of Mary
A sermon on Luke 1: 26-38; 1:46-55
The sermon for the fourth Sunday of Advent included a dramatic proclamation that re-introduces us to the power and drama of The Annunciation. Below you will find the script of the drama, written by APLC member Sue Stirrat, followed by a sermonic reflection on this telling of the story.
Angel 1: (to Angel 2) I’ve got to tell this girl I’ve got good news, but I don’t know how she’s going to take it.
Angel 2: What do you mean? If it’s good news, she should be happy to hear it.
Angel 1: Well, she’s young, and it might seem too unbelievable what I have to tell her. It’s really quite a miracle.
Angel 2: Well, God’s people have experienced miracles before, as long as you remind her this miracle comes from God, maybe she will be more accepting than you think.
Angel 1: Yes, and I can’t let my joy overwhelm her and cause her to be afraid. My mere presence may shock her.
Angel 2: She’s a faithful believer. You can do it. I know you can. Peace be with you.
Angel 1: And also with you.
Angel 1: (to Mary all excited) Hi! (composing herself) I mean, Do not be afraid. You have found favor with God.
Mary: That’s a good thing, right?
Angel 1: (excited again) Yes! You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son!
Mary: No I won’t! Not yet. Not me. Seriously? No way. Not possible.
Angel 1: Not possible? You are a faithful believer; you should know with God, nothing is impossible. Look at your cousin Elizabeth. She’s really old and has never had any children, and yet now she is 6 months into her pregnancy.
Mary: Yes, that is a miracle, but me? I need some more details.
Angel 1: Well, let me fill you in. You shall call him Jesus. He will be great. He will be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God will give Him the throne of His Father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom, there will be no end.
Mary: Reign? Kingdom? I’m going to raise a king? I just don’t think I can do it. I’m too young.
Angel 1: The Holy Spirit will be with you. This is not to be scary, but joyful. Just think, His kingdom will have no end. He is the Son of God and will change the lives of all people everywhere.
Mary: I believe you. I do trust in God. I am his maidservant and happy to do His will.
Angel 1: Good-bye, Mary. Peace be with you. (Mary waves goodbye, Mary walks to friends)
Friend 1: What’s with you Mary? You look kind of strange.
Mary: I’ve been chosen.
Friend 2: Chosen? For what?
Mary: It’s too unbelievable; I can barely say the words.
Friend 1: You’ve got me scared now. What are you talking about?
Mary: Do not be afraid.
Friend 2: Afraid? Afraid of what?
Mary: Nothing. I’ve been chosen by God to bear His Son, His Son whose kingdom will have no end.
Friend 1: And you know this because . . . ?
Mary: An angel of the Lord came to me. The angel said the Holy Spirit is with me. The angel told me His name! I am to name Him, Jesus.
Friend 2: (to friend 1) She is telling the truth. Look at her. Do you see her faith? The belief in her statement? She’s not joking. And she’s never been dishonest with us. As a friend, she’s always been trustworthy.
Friend 1: Um, not to put a damper on this news, but how do you think Joseph is going to take this?
Mary: I can’t worry about Joseph. I can’t worry. I can only have faith and do God’s will.
Friend 2: I think Joseph will be understanding. He loves you, and he loves God. If this is true, then this is going to be the world’s biggest miracle ever.
Mary: I believe it is true.
Friend 1: Really?! I… I don’t. None of this makes sense. If God was going to send a king, why would that king be born to a peasant girl in Nazareth. I don’t know what you saw and heard, Mary, but it can’t have been from God. God’s son isn’t going to come as the helpless baby of an unmarried teenager. (Shakes head and walks away).
Mary: (to Friend 2) I know it sounds crazy, but who am I to reject God’s choice? I may not deserve to be the mother of God’s Son, but maybe it’s not about deserving. The angel said this is a joy. I need to thank God. Please pray with me.
Friends and Mary: Blessed are you God, thank you for all you have given us, even when we don’t really understand your plans. Help us to trust in you. Amen.
(Angels get back together)
Angel 2: So how’d it go?
Angel 1: She believes! She’ll be great. She still doesn’t seem as excited as I am about this. I want to tell everyone!
Angel 2: Even shepherds?
Angel 1: Yeah, everyone!
Angel 2: And get a big, bright star to shine over His birthplace so people can come and see the baby.
Angel 1: Yeah! In addition, we can get the choir together and prepare to sing Hallelujah all night long!!!
Angel 2: Do you think all people are going to be as happy about this as you are?
Angel 1: It doesn’t really matter, because God has ensured everyone’s happiness whether they know it or not. His kingdom will have no end.
Both Angels: Alleluia!
* * *
I don’t know about you, but I long for the faith of that angel. I want to be bursting with the joy of what God is doing in the world, and I want to be so certain about God’s revelation that no caution or doubt can get in the way of my witness.
But that is NOT what my faith looks like most days. Most days my faith is quieter – a trust that God is with me, but not necessarily in a world-altering way. God is my strength, and my comfort, and my guide… but I’m still caught up in what I am doing, most of the time.
And on hard days, when the pain of the world, or of people I love has made my heart raw, it is an act of faith even to still be able to turn to God with my questions. “why is this happening?” “What is your plan God?” “How is this going to work out?” It can be hard to even pray for miracles – even though I HAVE seen miraculous prayers answered in my life – because… what if that’s not God’s plan this time? I don’t want to put God to the test, and I don’t want to dictate to God. And I know that I cannot insist on understanding, much less controlling how challenging circumstances unfold.
Which is why, even though I WANT the faith of the angel, I PRAY to have the faith of Mary.
Mary is often portrayed as meek and mild – the passive tool for God’s plan of incarnation – but I don’t see her as passive in this story. Mary’s faith is active and engaged. She asks for understanding, for an explanation of “how can this be?”
Maybe she shares my longing to see the whole plan laid out, with explanations of how God is going to overcome all the clear difficulties: like the scandal, and Joseph, and the technical issues of conception.
Mary doesn’t spend her days standing in God’s presence like the angel, and so she CAN’T experience the good news of the annunciation in the same way. But when she gets the good news that God is planning to work through her to establish God’s will on earth – unbelievable as that news is – she leans in. She asks for understanding. And even though the response does NOT address all the foreseeable difficulties, she gives her assent.
“Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
The faith of Mary is the faith to say “yes” to being used by God - not just as a mother, but also a messenger.
Our psalm of response today was the very next words we hear from Mary in Luke’s gospel. And they are powerful words proclaiming the kind of kingdom God was establishing through the coming of Jesus.
A kingdom that shows favor on the lowly and mercy to the those who fear God;
A kingdom that scatters the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
A kingdom the brings down the powerful from their elevated status, and lifts up the powerless.
A kingdom that fills the hungry with good things, and sends the rich away empty.
In the Annunciation, Mary recognized God's kingdom ethics at work, and the faith of Mary's "yes" is an active embodiment of the incarnation:
The unification of God’s divine power with human weakness.
The Annunciation proclaims God’s promise to come to earth and establish God’s kingdom through the tiny baby of an unmarried teenager. It is the proclamation that God doesn’t look for the trappings of wealth and power in those God chooses to use. It is the good news that God is acting for us, even when we don’t understand why God would ever choose to act this way.
Mary's example shows us that we don’t need to understand everything about God’s plan. We just need to understand that God is with us in our weakness, and God invites us to be part of the work of establishing God’s kingdom that will have no end.
Thanks be to God.