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Sunday December 20th

Luke 1:26-38

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.

I love Mary. Every single one of her reactions is so relatable and yet so aspirational. Not only does she model authenticity and humility, but also great courage and faith.

Let’s start with Gabriel’s greeting. When the angel approaches her with a compliment and a blessing, she reacts with genuine confusion. “Who me? Are you talking to me?” She is obviously surprised to be the recipient of a visit from one of God’s angels, but she stays and listens thoughtfully to what Gabriel has to say.

And Gabriel has something to say.

First, the angel tells Mary that she has found favor with the God of her ancestors. That right there would be enough to stop her in her tracks, but when Gabriel adds that she will carry the Christ child in her womb, Mary inquires about logistics.

Her responses up until that point probably resemble how most of us would have reacted in her shoes. Incredulity. Curiosity. Disbelief. Ordinary human responses to an extraordinary divine decree.

It is what Mary says in the end that completely blows my mind. “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

It is entirely possible and likely that the Gospel writer has condensed this conversation for the sake of transmission. Maybe Mary had more words with Gabriel. Maybe she pushed back harder. Regardless, she accepted God’s call on her life in that moment. She didn’t run away, mull over it, consult a few experts, run some numbers, and return with an answer. She believed. She obeyed. She stepped out in faith.

In this season of waiting, God calls us to do the same. With the promise of a Savior from the most high God, my prayer for all of us is that we channel the courage and chutzpah of Mary, mother of God. Like Mary, may we believe that God is at work in our world, and in believing, may we obey what God is calling us to, and in obeying, may we step out in faith trusting in the One whose kingdom has no end.

God of the Possible and Impossible, In response to good news anywhere and everywhere, may we be open to what you are revealing to us. Help us honor and respond to the places you are calling us to go and the people you are calling us to serve, this day and every day. Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Charlene Han Powell is the Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. Prior to serving at First Pres Berkeley, Charlene was the Executive Pastor at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Originally from the East Bay, Charlene and her husband, Jordan, have two daughters, Amelie and Noa.