Yesterday afternoon, here in church, I met an angel. She had white-blonde-hair, she was dressed in a beautiful white silk dress and she even had wings. Her name was Hattie and she was nearly three years old. She was brought by her Mummy and Daddy to the Stepping Stones Christmas event and it was a joy to meet her.
Now, had I been Mary from our gospel reading today, confronted by the Angel Gabriel and given the outrageous message from God that would change the world, I really don’t think that my first reaction would have been one of joy.
For Mary, her reaction was one of puzzlement. ‘How can this be?’ We can only imagine what must have been going round in her head.
I think you’ll agree that she handled it all very calmly, serenely even. Much better than others mentioned in the Bible, Zechariah, for instance was startled and was gripped with fear – I can understand that. And there were the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem. We read that they were terrified! Then there was Joseph. His two visits from an angel were in dreams – now, that’s a bit easier to handle. But I suppose also easier to disregard or kid yourself that it probably isn’t the real thing. For Joseph, there was no denying that the message was very real!
What about us? We might read stories about angels, we might even believe in them but we don’t really exact to be visited by them…do we? Do we??
Did you know that a third of people in Britain believe in angels? One in 10 believe that they have come into contact with one. One in ten! If we are typical of the general population, that means that at least two or three of us here this morning may well have a story to tell and I’d be very pleased to hear your story some time.
Most of us know Mary’s story. She was just a young girl, thirteen or fourteen years old. The angel told her that she was favoured by God and that she would conceive and bear a son who she would call Jesus. He also told Mary that nothing was impossible with God and that her elderly cousin Elizabeth who was barren had also conceived a son and was six months pregnant.
Without hesitation, Mary said those now famous words ‘Let it be with me according to your word.’ She accepted without question that she had been chosen by God. Regardless of her lack of prestige in the world and her lack of experience or abilities, she doesn’t question God’s choice for a moment.
Just as God chose Mary, I believe that God has also chosen you and me. It is no mistake that we are here in this congregation today. I believe that God has a purpose and he has chosen all of us to be instruments to carry Jesus into the world.
I don’t mean physically as Mary did… but to carry him in our hearts. We have been chosen to be the loving presence of Jesus in every situation we happen to find ourselves in. We may lack prestige, experience and ability, just like Mary. We may be scared of the future and of what people might think of us.
We may even only want to share our good news with others just like ourselves and restrict our faith to church on a Sunday?
That is not God’s purpose. He didn’t choose us to just come along to church each week to be fed, he chose us to go out into the big wide world and help to feed others. We have been chosen, like it or not, to take the good news outside of this church building and to do God’s mission.
Unlike Mary, thankfully we don’t face the possible prospects of being stoned to death for accepting God’s will.
Mary accepted, without question what God wanted her to do and from that moment on Jesus was a part of her life. When we accept Jesus, he revolutionises our lives and he turns everything upside down. Being loves so intensely can do that to a person!
Because Mary believed that she had been chosen by God, she was able to put into effect what God had chosen her to do.
The big question for us this morning is, do we really believe that we have been chosen by God?
If we dare to believe that God has some significant purpose for our individual lives and our church life together, fantastic things will start to happen in the life of our church here in Giggleswick and to each of us individually.
When we think about it, it is amazing what God did through Mary. That young girl, alone and afraid and yet her joy cries out to us and fills us with awe and inspiration.
And what is truly amazing is that just as God chose Mary, he has also chosen each one of us to do our bit! We don’t need to look for the reasons why, we just need to accept it and say… ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.
Thanks be to God. Amen