How Can This Be?

AnnunciationScripture Text:  Luke 1:28b-35

“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. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 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.” 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.


How can this be?  It is the most profound question; it is the question of faith.  It is the question that we ask when life makes no sense, when what we have planned and what we have imagined is suddenly crumbling around us and life doesn’t look like anything that we know.  We Protestants don’t often give much credence to this story, choosing instead to whisk past it to stories of mangers in the days of Caesar Augustus.  But it is so very important.  After all, as I’ve said before, God did not just drop out of the sky in the form of Jesus.  The Divine did not come into our midst in the form of a cloud, or a storm, or even, this time, a burning bush.  All of those were indeed incarnations of the Divine.  But THIS time, THIS time, God chose to come in human form, as one of us.  God chose to cross all the boundaries and be one of us.  And that takes time.  About nine months to be exact.  It also means that someone, a woman, a young woman, a woman that had her life planned, has to say “yes”.  Believe it or not, God chose not to do this alone.


So, this angel comes to this young woman.  “Mary,” the angel says, “I know this may be a little out of the box, a little hard to believe, but God has a plan for you.  Now, it’s not the plan that you imagined.  Basically, God is asking you to agree to become pregnant even though you have yet to celebrate your wedding feast.  Now, we all know that your husband, your family, and your community (not to mention generations of those who will follow you) will find this hard to believe.  The trip to have the child will be difficult.  And then when you get there, it will be as if no one has made plans at all.  (I mean, really, God asks Mary to do this.  Why did someone not think to make a reservation at the local inn?)  But, somehow, we will make it work.  And then, the child will be born into a world that will struggle to accept him.  He will live his life on the edge of society and will endure pain and suffering at the end.  You will grieve his life and you will grieve his death.  In all probability, you will never fully understand this child that you bring into the world.  And, oh yeah, you will be birthing the salvation of the world.  So, what do you think? Are we on?”


I don’t know if God planned to ask Mary.  Was she destined from birth?  Or was she the second, or the 46th, or the 8,729th person that God approached?  None of that matters.  Because God has given a part of the Godself to us.  It’s called free will.  God doesn’t push us into things.  God draws us toward the Divine, desiring that each and every child that God created and loved will choose, will choose to return to God in their own special way, will choose to respond to what God envisions he or she can do.  And so the world waits, hanging in suspended motion, eager to hear Mary’s answer.  Salvation is waiting to be.  She hesitates, not really knowing what to do or say or even think.  How can this be?  It makes no sense.  I mean, this is REALLY going to mess up my life.  But the dawn was beginning to form and Mary saw a light that she had never seen before.  For the first time, Mary knew who she was.  How can this be?  Let it be…Let it be according to thy word.


In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.


We are no different.  God approaches…over and over and over again, inviting us to dance, inviting us to live.  How can this be?  Let it be…let it be according to thy word.


The glad hosannas are no longer heard.  The shouting is over, the palms are gathered; the shadows lengthen; the plotting begins in earnest. Knowing the outcome, we come with heavy hearts.  And what do we hear?  An unchanged and unchanging message of love; God’s love, a poet’s love, a woman’s love.  God’s love, foretold by Isaiah, in the shape of a servant.  (Moira B. Laidlaw)


FOR TODAY:  Where is God calling you to go?  Who is God calling you to be?  Let it be according to thy word.


Grace and Peace,


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