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In the first chapter of the Gospel according to Luke we read about Mary, about to become the mother of the Son of God, and the angel Gabriel, who had been dispatched to tell her this incredible news. If you would like, please stop here in order to refresh the account in your mind. It can be found in Luke 1:26-38.

Welcome back! What struck me as I shared from this passage with our Sunday evening group was how Mary responded to this angelic visit and the news it carried to her. Before delving into Mary’ response to this wondrous sight, let us take a quick look at the responses of some of the great persons of faith from the Bible who also received a visit from angels.

Daniel was a person of strong faith. He served God throughout his life, even when his faith brought him into danger. Yet when the angel visits Daniel (Chapter 10 of Daniel), he describes himself as having “no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. (Daniel 10:8 NIV).

Zechariah was the father of John the Baptist. He was a priest in Israel. They were the ones who did the regular ministry in the temple, and occasionally one of them was selected to burn incense at the altar. On one such occasion, this duty fell to Zechariah. As he was tending to the incense, out of sight of everyone else, an angel appeared to him. This visitor told Zechariah that even though he and his wife Elizabeth were well passed child-bearing age, they would have a son. Before he even got this fantastic news Zechariah was struck with fear at the sight of the angel: When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear (John 1:12 NIV).

The Apostle John was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus. He was an eyewitness to all the miracles the Lord performed. He saw the healings and heard the teachings. He was in daily contact with Jesus for over three years. Despite all this experience, John is also gripped with fear as he has the vision from which he wrote the Book of Revelation: When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.” (Revelation 1:17-18a NIV).

As we read about Mary’s encounter with a heavenly messenger, we see her response is not quite like the ones I just listed. The angel Gabriel appears and says to her, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28 NIV). It is vital to keep in mind the circumstances: Mary, probably around 14 years of age, is engaged to Joseph. Marriages were usually arranged in those days, and it is possible Mary had not even met this older man yet. What was of the utmost importance was her purity: Mary had to be a virgin to be in keeping with religious and societal expectations then.

After the initial greeting, the narrative tells us that Mary is troubled, and wondered what this was all about. Notice she did not have the ‘knees turned to rubber’ response that Daniel, Zechariah and John had. She was no doubt shocked, but by no means paralyzed with fear. The angel Gabriel must have sensed her confusion as he told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30 NIV). He then delivers the incredible news of her pending pregnancy with no less than the Son of God! In her sandals, I would have been more than scared at this point!!

Not Mary, however. The dialogue between her and Gabriel leaves us the with understanding that she listened, as outrageous as it must have sounded to her, and vowed her obedience to God’s plan. After Gabriel explains how she will super-naturally conceive the Savior of the world, she simply states, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38 NIV).

Why then, I wondered, was Mary’s response so much different than what those three heroes of the faith had? After all, they had seen much in their long lives. God had no doubt been present with them and yet when faced with an angel from heaven, they literally quaked with fear.

Maybe, and this is just my opinion, their own experiences with the things of God had made them a bit too comfortable with how the Almighty does things. To a man, they gave witness to God’s greatness but when faced with a being from heaven, they melted as if they were wax near a flame.

Mary, with all of 14 or so years to her credit, simply listened to the message given her, considered it, and swore her obedience to God. Perhaps her understanding of God was less biased. Life experiences had not in any way caused her outlook to be anything other than innocently open to the Almighty. Hence, not fear when approached by Gabriel, but rather a more child-like wonder.

As the Christmas season comes again this year, I am hoping to re-discover some of that youthful wonder in myself. In a year that has left many of us bruised and battered by what we have seen and experienced, I yearn to be more open to God and what He is doing in these days.

I know how easy it can be to get distracted by and distraught over the condition of our world. Won’t you join with me in seeking to keep all those things in their proper place so that I/we can marvel again at the awesome work of God.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

3 thoughts on “I Would Have Been Scared!

  1. Wow, how intriguing to compare Mary’s response to others who also encountered angels! I am in awe of Mary’s response. It’s so innocent, so faith filled, so inspiring. She gave it all to God. She trusted Him with all the details. And in saying yes to this high calling, she risked everything. Yet, she focused simply on obedience. May we all have faith like Mary’s faith!

    Liked by 1 person

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