Nazareth? This is like God sending an angel to Commerce City. Nazareth is a nothing of a town.
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.
What kind of greeting is that Mary? Had you ever been called favored before? Mary. They are all called Mary aren’t they? Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary from Magdala, That other Mary and Mary the mother of Jesus. So common a name. Almost as though when the writers couldn’t remember a woman’s name they just automatically called her Mary. Like Jane Doe- it’s just this side of forgettable Mary. So common but yet now angelically deemed “favored one”. What kind of perplexing greeting is this calling a common Mary “favored one”. Did you look behind you to see if someone else named Mary was standing behind you? Mary; common and favored.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God."
You found favor with God? Like you were looking for favor everywhere until bang! You find it with God? Or was it more like it is with God that you are the favored one though not so much favored elsewhere. We aren’t given a litany of all the things you did and personality traits you inhabited that made you favor-able. Perhaps it is the fact that you are chosen by God that makes you favored not that your favorableness made you chooseable.
"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.”
In your ears, you a marginalized young Jew living in the midst of an occupied land are the words “throne …reign … kingdom” This is nothing less than cultural, political, religious and spiritual insurrection for the common to be favored and the favored to be common.
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.”
Elizabeth: Barren and pregnant. One of God’s favorite ways to prove that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. God’s ways are not our ways…continually transgressing our polite family values. Elizabeth barren and pregnant. Mary common and favored. This is the transgressive fecundity of God. Willing life where there is no life. Making a way where there is no way. Messing with all of us in the way that only true mercy can do.
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.
Here I am you say …just like Isaiah after the coal touched his mouth. Here I am you say. Send me. Did it burn you too, like Isaiah’s own lips? Let it be with me according to your word you said. “Here I am, the Servant of the Lord, let it be with me according to your word”. So beautiful. We try and domesticate you Mary like a trinket of docile, submissive womanhood but you are bolder than that, more defiant almost. Some try to hide from their calling (Moses, Jonah, Elisha) but you said Here I am. Sign me up. Did you know what this word was going to mean for you?
And Mary said,
(Magnificat is sung by Mary)
My soul proclaims the greatness of | the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in | God my Savior,
for you, Lord, have looked with favor on your | lowly servant.
From this day all generations will | call me blessed;
Is that was being blessed looks like? We usually use that word a bit differently. You’re so blessed to have that new boat. So, Mary, how exactly are you using that word? Did you feel blessed as your unwed belly grew under the gaze of disapproving others. Did you feel blessed when laboring amongst sheep and straw? Mary, common and favored…Did you feel blessed when your heart dropped realizing you left your 12 year old in Jerusalem? At his arrest did you feel blessed seeing rope dig into the wrists of both God made flesh and the flesh of your flesh? Did you feel blessed when they lifted him up? No one else was his mother. Just you. Blessed are you among women. Common and favored. And blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus. God and Man. “We hail Mary, Queen of Heaven,” proclaims Martin Luther, “because in her we come to know that ours is the God who comes nearest to us in our brokenness.”
you, the Almighty, have done great | things for me,
and holy | is your name.
You have mercy on | those who fear you,
from generation to | generation. R
You have shown strength | with your arm;
and scattered the proud in | their conceit,
casting down the mighty | from their thrones
and lifting | up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry | with good things,
and sent the rich | away empty.
You have come to the aid of your | servant Israel,
to remember the prom- | ise of mercy,
the promise made | to our forebears,
to Abraham and his chil- | dren forever.
There’s nothing like a song about upturning the whole social order to warm the heart. That or scare the be-jesus out of you.
So maybe that’s what God is up to here. Transgressing the boundaries of human society. Commerce City becomes Jerusalem. The favored become common and the common become favored. The barren are pregnant. The hungry filled. The rich, hungry. The proud leveled and the downtrodden lifted up until it’s all blurred past distinction. The prophet Mary sings in the new inverted reality of God’s kingdom on earth and this is it’s fight song. It’s your song, all of you. A song of this God who entered so fully into this muck of human existence and upturned our expectations and religiosity and self loathing and self satisfaction enough to usher in a new reality. And this reality is that God became one of us so that we might become children of God. Gregory of Nyssa writes, “What was achieved in the body of Mary will happen in the soul of everyone who receives the Word.” You, all of you, are blessed and full of grace. So, may the God through whom nothing is impossible help you to be Marys….carrying the gospel into this hurt and broken and beautiful world. May it be with you all according to God’s Word.