Tue Dec 14-Faith-Now and Then

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.

Luke 1:26-38 (CEB)

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.


It doesn’t always seem fair
The way things happen now
And the way they seemed to happen then

We laud Mary’s faith
And we should

But I feel like I would say yes to an angel too?

Those who prophesied or received visions
Were believed, even if not always revered

Now we would get admitted to the hospital
With a heavy dose of an antipsychotic
And a sedative for good measure

Would we want it any other way?
Maybe not.
Maybe we are content to keep the angels at bay.

Maybe from atop our 21st century pedestals
We can look down on our 1st century siblings
And dissect their primitive religion
Into terms that Kant would approve of

But sometimes, I resent that God does not show up
in more obvious ways.
Did God love them more than he loves us?
Was it easier to be faithful when you saw
Miracles and Angels
(or thought you did,
that’s how everyone thought
back then)

For all the difference
Between us and them
Now and then

What remains the same?
When through
miracles (like being in the right place at the right time)
angels (like that one really good friend at church)
divine surprises pose questions to us,
questions that require a hopscotch, skipping rope or a long jump of faith
What remains the same?

The Lord is with you.
The Lord perplexes.
We ponder.
Do not be afraid.
“How can this be?”
With God, nothing will be impossible.

The response is ours now
As then
To say or not
“Here am I, the servant the Lord: let it be with me according to your word.” 

By the Rev. Emily Wilton

For Pondering & Prayer

Sometimes in our modern context, it can be difficult to think of miracles in a non-abstract way. Have you ever experienced something that you deem a miracle? What made it a miracle?

Prayer: Holy God, thank you for the ways you bend the impossible and make our world even bigger. We give thanks for those like Mary, who are met with your miracles and say yes. Amen.

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