In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 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, favoured 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 favour 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 for ever, 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. 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.’ 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.
The Expectation of Miracles by Tamasha
MIRACLE : “A surprising and highly improbable or extraordinary event.”
Any time I’ve thought about this passage, I’ve immediately considered it to be about the miraculous possibilities that exist when a situation is considered to be impossible. The implication is enormous, especially when thinking about how our Lord and Savior came to exist and physically walk this earth. Truly, the argument can be made that, other than the resurrection, the Incarnation of Christ is the most divine example of a miracle that we could imagine. Have you ever thought about this story, though, as NOT a miracle at all, not as an exception to the rule, but as the rule itself?
As we move through this passage, we think about Mary and Elizabeth, who represent the virgin and the barren. Pretty straightforward. One has never been with a man, and the other is incapable of producing children. The trouble here is that these definitions only scratch the surface of what the words, in their entirety, really mean.
A virgin can also be “a person who is naïve, innocent, or inexperienced in a particular context”. In this way, a virgin can be someone who is simply without experience, lacking confidence, without absolute knowledge of a situation or idea. He/she is a novice. I immediately think about my oldest child, and how he’s beginning to ask questions about learning to drive. He’s terrified and full of “what-ifs”, constantly needing the reassurance that he’ll eventually learn and become so good at driving that it will become second nature to him.
Elizabeth, on the other hand, is barren. Barren, what we immediately define as unable to bear children, is also defined as “desolate; deserted; ruined; saddened by grief or loneliness”. Haven’t we all, at some point, experienced these very feelings? Haven’t we all hit a brick wall at some point in our lives – perhaps even recently – when we felt that we had nothing more to give; nothing more to produce, and were empty?
Here is where it all comes together. For both the unknowing and naïve, and the deserted and grieving, the virgin and the barren, there is a promise of conception. To conceive is to develop a plan or begin a process. The moral of the story, then, is that (regardless of our history and circumstance and lot in life) we have an absolute promise of new development and new beginnings, as the blessed and highly favored children of the Most High God. Every single day. Again and again. Unending. Absolutely UNENDING. (Yeah…think about that for a second!)
As I sit with this and again think about what MIRACLES are, I can’t help but consider that our stories of Mary and Elizabeth – very specific examples of how God delivers on His promise that we will live in fullness, our lives dripping with possibilities and new beginnings and abundance even when we are convinced otherwise – those promises are not “improbable or extraordinary”. Those promises are constant. They are the very essence of probable; they are likely, and certain. Should we be surprised by that which is certain and continuously proven?
What would life look like, in terms of disappointment and setbacks or circumstances of uncertainty, if we changed our thinking to always simply expect “a miracle”?
Holy Living and Loving God, Thank you for the ultimate gift of promise that you deliver to me each day. Thank you for making the impossible, expected; the improbable, likely; the barren, overflowing; the doubt, conquered. Let me be open to receive your gifts and accept your promises as truth. Amen.