The morning sun is barely lighting up the gray sky when I flip on the light and crack open to Luke’s retelling of that epic announcement. How an angel visited a virgin barely of age and gives her the greatest shock of her life. But first he has to calm her down with the gentle reminder, “Be not afraid.”
Because isn’t that our first instinct when we see something from the other side of the veil? And this angel, showing up at the doorstep, or perhaps while she’s in the middle of washing the laundry or making a meal, has to be displaying a glory that just sends you dropping to the floor thinking this is it.
If you’re staring heaven in the face, how can you not think it’s anything but the end? Why on earth would heaven visit this dirty, broken, decaying place?
It’s the greatest news the world had yet to hear and it’s coming in the smallest, most unassuming package. A baby born to a virgin is going to be the fulfillment of a thousand promises, the long-awaited Savior. God in the flesh.
And it all starts with this young girl.
But unlike another woman past who laughed at the promise of a unprobable pregnancy, Mary believes it. It’s scandalous and it’s impossible and she doesn’t bat an eye. Her cousin Elizabeth praises her, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”
That’s the line that I mull over the rest of the day.
In this season of presents, and angels and baby-filled mangers, I tend to forget that at the beginning of it all there was a young girl who had crazy deep faith. She gets the most impossible news and she doesn’t seem to doubt that it will happen just as she’s been told. She doesn’t ask a bunch of questions or give God a ten-point presentation on why this is a terrible idea or even list all the ways it will ruin her life and her plans.
She just says yes. And believes.
And I’m stunned because I look back at this year, this year of walking far out of the boat, of living like nomads and how often I did not respond like this young girl. How often I lacked belief that God would continue to be what He has always been, faithful and good. How I failed to believe that God knew what He was doing, because upending my life was the best thing for my life. Or how often I said yes to Jesus begrudgingly rather than joyfully.
That movie that My Man made while we bounced around without a place to call our own? Yeah, it’s finally coming out this January and it’s about that virgin girl who said yes. About how to the end, she remained a woman living full of grace and full of faith.
From that first announcement to the heart-wrenching in-between, to her final breath, she walked in confidence that Abba would accomplish what He said He would do. And that He would be all He promised to be. When her neighbors eyed her swollen stomach and whispered. When the screaming crowd crucified her son and she buried him on that Friday. When Mary Magdalene came running with the news that death had lost its power.
She believed. The first to say yes to the invitation of God in flesh, she put it all on the line.
It’s an invitation available to us all. To believe the improbable, to say yes to a baby bearing Heaven’s glory and reap the blessing of belief. To put our lives, on either side of heaven, in the hands of a God who made Himself small so that we could catch a glimpse of His greatness.
Perhaps Christmas, at the end of a year that may have been full of joy or weighed down with pain and struggle, is a chance to say yes again. A chance to be reminded that blessing comes with belief and what’s more improbable than Creator of the Universe coming as the most helpless creature? What’s more scandalous than a God who loves His creation enough to be born in a barn, to walk among them, and to die for them?
It’s the season of wonder and love and extravagant grace and perhaps some of us need to believe with a young virgin girl that what God says, will be.
That the holes in our lives will one day be made whole.
The the broken places will be healed.
That the desperate cries of our hearts will be answered.
That we’ll one day reach the home for which our hearts ache.
That joy comes in the mourning, because death has lost its sting.
That a baby born on a quiet night in a barn was the gift that changed history.
And it can change our lives, if we’ll only just believe.