What’s with Mary? She’s not all that

By Cindy Koch

Do you see that girl that sits alone over there? The young one, not especially beautiful, but not unlike any of her other friends in our tiny city called Nazareth. Mother makes her draw water in the morning; father made sure there was an upstanding Jewish boy waiting to marry her. Everything was completely ordinary and plain in that little Mary’s life until the one day when she said an angel showed up.

I’m sure, if it were true, talking with an angel sent from God would change things quite a bit. A conversation with such a great and terrible creature would surely change the rest of my days here on the earth. So, she says that one night, the Angel Gabriel surprised her with a triumphant welcome, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” All this for little, unimportant Mary.

They say that Mary was terrified. First of all, there was an angel talking to her. These creatures are not cute little cupids with rosy cheeks. No, usually the first thing an angel says to a human is to stop fearing. Whatever the Angel Gabriel looked like, Mary must have recognized this other worldly creation to be a messenger from God, so she listened intently. Secondly, this angel addressed her in the strangest way: O favored one? The Lord is with you? What could possibly be so wonderful about a simple girl from the city of Nazareth?

I can imagine that Mary was afraid. She was troubled. She was trying to figure out what was going on here. And then the Angel Gabriel spoke even more hard words into Mary’s ears. You will have a son. And really, she must have been thinking: How humiliating! This is not how it is supposed to go for a good little Jewish girl. Pregnant before the wedding night? Who else will ever believe this crazy story from an angel? My life as I know it will be destroyed: shame for my family, my betrothed will find another, and I will have this public disgrace displayed for all to see. So, Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And Angel Gabriel told her boldly, “This is all God’s work. Your child will be the Son of God.”

Mary was promised a baby to be named Jesus—not because she was anything special or unique, because she is certainly not. Not because she understood or even wanted this to happen to her. Jesus, the Son of God, this long-awaited promised child was just there: in her womb, in her life, in her insignificant story.

It’s not uncharacteristic for God to pick out the low and humiliating path. I just never thought this is how the great King of Kings would choose to descend from the heavens. Born of a virgin, no prestige or status, a dirty and bloody birth. But this is how the promises of God still come into our shameful and unimpressive lives. The promises of God don’t wait for us to accept them. The promises of God don’t make sure we understand everything first. No, the promises of God are in the most disgraceful places.

Even for you, He did not wait for you to be a pristine example of faith and service before He chose you for His great work. No, God found you while you are mired deep in sin. He chose you to bear His Son’s name to the world, whether or not you can understand anything that entails. God gives you fresh new life and actual forgiveness by means of dirty things like tap water, budget wine, and dry bread. Weak and lowly, small and insignificant, that is where God chooses to come to his creatures. To little Mary, and to you.

Mary could have said many things to the great and terrible angel from the Lord about this unnerving situation. We also could say a great many things concerning God’s strange promises and gifts. But together with faithful Mary, our answer is simple. Our answer confesses that God’s great work will happen even in the most humiliating places. We say, “I am a servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your Word.”