Luke 1:26-38 - "The angel came to her (Mary) and said, "Peace be with you! The Lord is with you and has greatly blessed you." The angel said to her, "Don't be afraid, Mary; God has been gracious to you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus."
"Mary said to the angel, "I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?"
"I am the Lord's servant," said Mary; "may it happen to me as you have said." And the angel left her.
(Good News Translation)
Do you ever wonder what Mary was doing when the angel informed her she was pregnant with Jesus? Artists, especially during the Renaissance depict Mary dressed in ornate, flowing robes, with detailed sewing o the sleeve cuffs and hem. Angels with large wings rest surround her.
Last year's cover of the November/December issue of The Upper Room, shows Mary wearing a white t-shirt, blue jumper, white socks and saddle shoes. Her medium-length brown hair was pulled back to a pony tail. She held a book while and angel stood close by.
I have always envisioned Mary wearing a patched robe, a long braid down her back and her hands covered with dough as she made bread. When an angel interrupted, she might have been thinking about sheep to tend later in the day or going to the market when the dough rose.
When Gabriel gave Mary the news about her pregnancy, she didn't reply, "Oh, I am so happy. I've always wanted to be a mother." Instead, she responded, "I am a virgin. How, then, can this be?"
Gabriel encouraged Mary by saying the Holy Spirit will come and God's power will rest upon her (verse 35). These are words of God's provision for Mary in the days ahead.
In the midst of her astonishment, fear and surprise (verse 29, 34) Mary is assured of God's companionship. She will not go through these days of unexpected pregnancy alone (verse 35). Regardless what comments about her condition may come, she realizes God is with her.
Often viewed as a model of obedience, Mary's question indicated uncertainty and confusion. The angel gave Mary more information about how the pregnancy would occur (verse 35), even sharing details about her cousin, Elizabeth's pregnancy in advanced age as an additional example of what God can accomplish (verses 36 and 37).
Mary consents by saying, "I am the Lord's servant. May it happen to me as you have said." (verse 38)
We don't know how much time passed between Mary being deeply troubled by the angel's news (verse 29), her question (verse 34) and finally her acceptance (verse 38). Despite the shocking news she received, she was able to sense God's presence as she realized in these moments the mission God gave her.
As unexpected circumstances come our way, we may feel a little like Mary did when Gabriel told her she was pregnant. When serious illness hits a seemingly healthy person, when relationships are impaired, when a beloved family member or friend dies suddenly, when a job loss or relocation is announced, we can feel troubled and question, "How can this be?"
I remember two different occasions when Mike received word that he was being assigned to another church at the exact moment I received long-awaited, desirable part-time job offers where he currently was serving. One job was to work with pre-school children, the other at the county hospital. I'd waited several years for both positions
Eventually, I had to decline the opportunity to work with pre-school children and hand in my resignation at the hospital after only working five months.
I cried out, "How can this be? I've waited patiently for these positions, and now we have to move."
Seeking God daily through prayer and reading eventually enabled me to give God my disappointment and receive peace. God's generosity followed after both moves, I was able to find employment in our new city.
Through prayer, we offer ourselves to God acknowledging we need God's help to grow through the many life challenges that prompt the question, "How can this be?"
With God's companionship, we can join Mary with acceptance and say, "I am yours, God. You are with me all of the time and through whatever I am experiencing."
Prayer: God, how many times we cry out, "How can this be?" when we struggle or when we receive unexpected blessings! Help us trust your constant companionship for all parts of life. Amen.