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The Annunciation

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  • The Annunciation

    Today (25 March) we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord. On 25 December we celebrate his coming publicly at his birth, announced by a host of God’s angels saying "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!" (Lk 1:14).

    But today we celebrate the quiet announcement by a single angel to a young virgin in Nazareth.

    In his gospel Luke records that the Angel Gabriel appeared to both Zachariah and Mary.

    And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. (Lk 1:11-12)

    And he came to her and said, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. (Lk 1:28-29)

    Note that Zechariah was troubled by what he saw, but Mary was troubled by what the angel said. Luke is here indicating that the words the angel said were significant. Indeed the whole exchange is packed with significance. But here I just want to pick up on two statement made by Gabriel.

    The first is in the quote above: “the Lord is with you”

    What would this have meant to a 1st Century Jew? To which others did God, or an angel of God, say God would be with them?

    God to Jacob when he made him the covenant leader “Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (Gen 28:15)

    God to Moses at the burning bush when he called him to lead Israel from slavery “But I will be with you” (Ex 3:12)

    God to Joshua before he led them into battle to take the promised land “as I was with Moses so I will be with you” [/COLOR](Josh 1:5)

    Angel to Gideon when he called him to defend Israel against a foreign invasion “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valour” (Jud 6:12)

    God to David (via Nathan) when he made him head of an everlasting kingdom “I have been with you wherever you went” (2 Sam 7:9)

    God the Jeremiah when he called him to be a prophet “I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord” (Jer 1:8)

    Mary is being told she is there among the great leaders of Israel, people whom God called to have an important mission in the salvation of Israel. Mary is being called to stand with the great leaders of Israel who had many trials and had to make many sacrifices. No wonder Mary was “greatly troubled” and “pondered what sort of greeting this might be”.

    Then in Lk 1:30 Gabriel says “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God”. The “Do not be afraid” is reassuring her that God would be with her to help and protect her. But what does the “you have found favour” with God signify? Again let’s look at some others in Israel’s history who found favour with God. It brings to mind others who were specifically chosen by God for an important role or office.

    Noah, who was chosen to renew the human race after the flood. “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 6:8)

    Abraham, who was the start the covenant people found favour with God “My Lord, if I have found favour in your sight…..So they said, “Do as you have said.” (Gen 18:3-5)

    Moses also found favour with God when he acted as mediator of the covenant people at Sinai –see Ex 33:12-17.

    Mary was specially chosen to have a particular and unique mission in our salvation, and with people like Noah, Abraham, and Moses to be the instrument of a new beginning for humanity. She was more important than Abraham or Moses or David because she was to bring the Saviour of the whole world into the world. She is unique.
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