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Annuncication and Visitation
 Brenda Cottarel (Reader in training), 21st December, 2014

Come back with me if you will, back to the first century to an unremarkable Town in Galilee called Nazareth. Here lives an unremarkable teenager called Mary. She is about 14 or 15 yrs old and is betrothed to an unremarkable man
called Joseph, a carpenter. This is all very unremarkable except…..

One day, whilst going about her business, going to the well for water perhaps or rolling out bread, Mary is confronted by an angel not just any old angel but abriel himself, sent by God to speak to Mary.

“Greetings favoured one! The Lord is with you” he says. We are told by Luke in the first chapter of his Gospel  that Mary is perplexed. I suggest she is utterly terrified, not an everyday occurrence being visited by an angel.  Gabriel recognises this because he says, “don’t be afraid Mary, for you have found favour with God, you will become pregnant, have a son and call him Jesus. He will be great and inherit the throne of David and reign over Israel and His kingdom will have no end. He will be called the Son of the Most High.

Mary stunned by the whole thing asks, naturally enough, "how can that happen? I’m a virgin I have not been with a man!"

Gabriel tells her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of God will overshadow you which means this child will be holy and will be called the Son of God”. He then tells her that her cousin, who is past child bearing age, is six months pregnant and she was supposed to be barren, infertile; therefore nothing is impossible with God.

Mary doesn’t argue or even hesitate and replies “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.  Mary has said YES to God. The angel disappears.

Mary knows through her knowledge of the scriptures, even if she couldn’t read, living in such close proximity to her family and neighbours, she will have heard boys reciting, learning the scriptures by rote. She knows God loves her with an infinite love and she loves and trusts Him, she also is quite sure this baby will not be any ordinary person.

A pregnant virgin! How is she going to explain that to her family, friends, neighbours and JOSEPH! She knows that if Elizabeth is facing an extraordinary event herself, she will understand her predicament and she will believe her. She doesn’t know that Elizabeth is already aware of her condition:she must go at once to visit her. Hurriedly she leaves, doesn’t tell her family and walks, for she has no transport, through the the hill country to Judea which would have taken her about eight days. There are some suggestions that she may have joined a caravan for safety, I would have thought that would bring its own problems. I started this story by saying Mary was unremarkable - but was she really? A 14 yr. old virgin visited by an angel, told she was going to have a child and she embarks on an eight day hike to see her elderly cousin, no she is quite remarkable, and she said YES to God. Here she is trudging through the hilly country, not dressed in the fine blue edged with gold, no, something much less fine and rougher, more uncomfortable for a long and very hot walk, probably coloured grey or brown which would absorb more heat and scratch and chafe and if she did join a caravan there would be flies and other insects attracted by the camels and the noise they make and the spitting if you went near them, but she had youth on her side and what a tale to tell.

Mary arrives at Elizabeth’s house, she has hidden herself away the last five months we’re told, and she was an object of scorn and had been ashamed of being barren. Her husband Zechariah was also visited by an angel, at the synagogue where he was a priest; the angel told him of Elizabeth’s forthcoming pregnancy, he didn’t believe and was struck dumb. Poor Elizabeth, getting pregnant in later years and all that goes with it, anyone who has been pregnant or been part of one will know what I’m talking about - it’s Sunday and we are in church we do not need to go into detail. Although, I’m sure she is overjoyed at the prospect of becoming a mum.  Zechariah has been struck dumb because he didn’t trust and believe, and him a priest! But Elizabeth can’t have a talk with him or a jolly good row blaming everything on him. When she sees Mary walking up the street she is really pleased to have some company, she’s always been fond of Mary and they can chat about women’s things and babies. Yes, this is what she needs: a companion, a friend, we all need them at difficult times. Mary enters the house and shouts "Shalom”. Elizabeth’s baby leaps with joy and she is filled with the Holy Spirit and cries out to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the baby you’re carrying, but why am I so special that the mother of my Lord should come to me”?

Elizabeth was six months pregnant and must have already felt her child move. so this must have felt very different. "As soon I heard your voice this baby jumped for joy”, said Elizabeth. "You are blessed because you believed what God said He would do” Elizabeth knows Mary has had a visit from Gabriel and is probably beginning to realize that Mary could become the famous of all time – she said YES to God.

How does Mary respond? She listens to Elizabeth, considers it, and turns it right back to God. It is not about her, she says. "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. He has looked with favour on the lowliness of His servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed and Holy is His name."

In choosing Mary as the mother of His Son, God has rewarded her and has exalted her, lifted her up. She is praising God because He has noticed her. Mary doesn’t mention herself again in the song. Mary does know her scriptures, she knows God always looks out for the sick, the poor, the needy, the marginalised, those with humility, those that love and honour him. He doesn’t go for the rich and famous, the proud, the greedy, the powerful. God chose Mary not because she was remarkable, so why?  Not because she was great but because God loved her and Mary loved and trusted God. Here am I the servant of the Lord let it be with me according to your word."

Mary said a resounding YES to God. Do we believe, love and trust in God enough to say God, here am I your servant? Amen.

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