During Advent, we are featuring devotionals written by clergy of the Greater NJ Annual Conference of the UMC. For this third week, we are focused on reflections related to Mary, based on the Gospel of Luke.
26 When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, 27 to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” 29 She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. 31 Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. 33 He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. 36 Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. 37 Nothing is impossible for God.”
38 Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
When Gabriel announced that Mary was the favored one, I wonder what she thought. If I heard that I was one of God’s favorites, I wonder what I would feel. Honestly, my ﬁrst instinct would be to let Gabriel know he was at the wrong house. The woman next door has much more to offer. I couldn’t possibly be the favored one. And depending on the translation of this passage, I am far from being ‘full of grace.’ When God calls on us to go somewhere, to be present with someone or to be about the courageous work of transformation in our world, too often we count the cost or assume there is someone better suited for the job. I’m sure Mary felt that as well. I have no doubt that she worried about not being old enough, strong enough, or capable enough. And those nine months while she waited for the child to come, I’m sure those same questions came up again. Am I enough? Even after the birth of the child, is it possible that she pondered the question in her heart once again: “Am I enough?”
All of us ask this question. It’s ok to ask the question. The problem comes when we get stuck in the question and we don’t move forward. I believe Mary was able to step into that role, not because she believed she was special or because she was excited about the prospect of being the mother of God. I believe she stepped out because of the words that came after the declaration that she was favored. “Greetings favored one! The Lord is with you.” Every Sunday as I prepare to send out my church family to be about the work of Kingdom building, I remind them of this: “The Good News is that as you go…you do not go alone. The God of justice, the God of mercy, the God of peace, the God of steadfast love…goes with you.”
Am I enough? Somedays I believe I am, but most days I just step out grateful for the knowledge of Emmanuel…God with me. Emmanuel…God with us.
By the Rev. Cyndi Stouffer
For Pondering & Prayer
When in your life have you struggled with thoughts that maybe you are not enough? Is there someone you know who may be dealing with these thoughts right now? How can you pray for them or offer them encouragement today?