Today is the last Sunday in the season of Advent, the season of waiting and preparing for the Lord. So this week we travel with Mary and I am including an excerpt from last years sermon on this passage - Luke 1:26-38.
Today we hear of a heavenly visit and a divine announcement. A young girl who was out and about, doing daily chores and an angel appears to her. In this greeting he says that she is a favored one, one beloved by God. But, to really grasp this message, to see the groundwork being laid – must go back a little, back to the beginning of this chapter, back to the story of Zechariah.
Zechariah was a priest, he was one who was chosen by lot to serve in the temple and called to burn incense during the time of prayer, and it was during one of these times that he was burning incense that a life-changing event happened to him – an angel appeared him as well. This angel, Gabriel, told Zechariah, your prayers will be answered, you and your wife, Elizabeth, will have a child. What good news this was for after many years of not being able to have a child, will now be able to do so.
But, in hearing this news, Zechariah is in shock. How can this happen? He asks, both my wife and I are old, this does not seen likely at all! Gabriel then scolds him for his doubt. He says, you will be silent and not be able to speak until the day this happens because you did not believe my words.
In this short exchange, Zechariah demonstrates his disbelief. He has heard the word of the angel and he has not believed it. He wants proof. He wants to know for sure that this is true. But, the angel of God is not about knowing. But rather, the angel calls for faith, calls for belief, and punishes Zechariah for his lack of faith. Because you did not believe my words, you will become mute. And so it was. Zechariah stands before us, on this amazing and miraculous day, as a person of doubt.
Why is it important to hear this story, this story of doubt, as we look at and hear the story of Mary as well? Because with Mary we see and hear the exact opposite. Mary, too, is approached by an angel, the same one in fact. She too is told that she will have a child. But she is very different than both Zechariah and her cousin Elizabeth – she is young, she is unmarried, she is a common peasant woman. And, she is the model of faith
As the priest of the highest order in Israel doubted what the angel told him, Mary, the peasant, one of the lowest in society, believes. When the angel tells her of the impending birth, she responds as only faith can, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word.”
These two stories, as different as they are, belong together for they are both stories of faith, and faith has everything to do with hearing the promised word of God and trusting in that word. And this wonderful childlike faith that we see in Mary lays the groundwork for what is going to happen.