The 3rd surprise in today’s scripture was that Jesus was of the family of David which just happened to be a family of liars, adulterers, murders, fornicators, connivers, and blasphemers. We can go back into the Old Testament and identify the people who were the unsavory ones but God chose a holy young woman, who was of the family of David to be the mother of Jesus. Being the time of preparation for Jesus’ birthday it is not the time to identify the unsavory ones but rather concentrate on how St. Luke defines the very beginning of Jesus’ life in Mary.
It is always a good time to attend a Christmas pageant reenacting the Christmas story with all the actors and actresses as very young children. Of course, there always the need to have someone play Mary, and Joseph, angels, and shepherd as well as a few sheep. There was this pageant in which Charlie was playing a sheep and Claire was playing Mary. Charlie was all dressed up in his sheep costume and he was going around the dressing room repeating, “I am a sheep, what are you?” When he asked the question to Emily she proudly declared that she was an angel. When he got to Clare she simply said, “I’m Mary.” Realizing he was face to face with the lead character, Charlie felt the need to justify his own role and he said, “It’s hard being a sheep you know,” in all seriousness of a 5 year old with a big part. Claire in equal seriousness responded, “I agree, it’s also hard being a virgin, you know.” I would expect that Mary’s response could have been the same when the Angel Gabriel approached her.
In today language, Gabriel would have said something like, “I have some good news for you and even better news for you. One likely is no surprise to you and the second is a big surprise.” And Mary would likely have said, “Let’s start with that which shouldn’t be a surprise.” Gabriel then said, “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you.” In today’s language that would be, “You are God’s favorite, and there is no reason for you to be afraid for he has great plans for you.” With that kind of greeting and message Mary was likely thinking what the big surprise could possibly be. When he told her she was to be the Mother of God she agreed, that was a big surprise and after a few questions and answers Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.”
What are two things we can’t avoid? Death and change. Surprises are unexpected changes and there is no question that Mary was surprised when St. Michael told her that she was to be the Mother of Jesus. What was her first response? She was already in conversation with God’s messenger, she was already praying, so she continued her conversation with him. You might say she continued praying. In her praying she was able to obtain answers to the multiple questions she had.
When unexpected changes, surprises come into our lives, the first and best response is to follow Mary’s example, pray. The message which St. Michael had for Mary was that she was “God’s favorite … and God had great plans for her”. Infinite as God is, he considers each one of us as his “favorite” and has plans for each of us. That’s difficult to understand but that’s one of the things which makes God a mystery, he doesn’t have any special favorites and his capacity to love and to understand is without bounds.
When we trust God, we too are no longer fearful of the unknown. God will liberate us from all our fears if we are willing to trust him. The fact is when we don’t have faith and we fail to trust God we end up failing to believe that nothing is impossible for God, we are prone to resort to worry and anxiety which signals the end of our faith and that has devastating effect spiritually, psychologically and physically on us. In contrast, when we follow Mary’s example in how to handle surprises we are gifted with the same trust, confidence and strength which transformed Mary when she was surprised.