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Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Today is the Annunciation. It is also Lady Day, one of the special days in the life of the Mothers’ Union, when two great, but unassuming, ladies are celebrated; Mary the mother of Jesus and Mary Sumner, founder of the Mothers’ Union. I am a member, as many of you know. Many men are, but we are in a minority. A year ago we were realising that the usual Lady Service we would have held in St Mary’s was not going to be possible. A year later we were faced with a similar quandary – although our church building has opened for Sundays, bearing in mind that the Cathedral is doing Maundy Thursday only online, we felt it prudent to ask our members to join one of the online Lady Day services. It has been a whole year of disruption during which we have had just a couple of in person gatherings and a telephone conference. Last Sunday for Mothering Sunday members of our Mothers’ Union took part in the Mission Community online service, using some lovely words provided by the National organisation, but nevertheless we would have preferred a less disruptive year.
Of course, there are some compensations. The fact that we have not been allowed to meet as normal means that a great administrative burden is removed! It is not always easy finding the right speakers to make the meetings interesting.
The two Marys we celebrate today found themselves thrust into positions that they would never have dreamt of, positions for which they would have considered themselves entirely unsuitable. But that is what happens when God calls. Often we are taken out of our comfort zones. Mostly we think we are not good enough, not capable enough, perhaps even entirely unsuited. But God makes the strangest of choices, which always seem to work out for the better in the end. If only we had as much confidence in ourselves as God does!
So most appropriately for today we ask that Mary, ever virgin, will intercede with us as we pray:
Hail Mary, full grace
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God
pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.