The Gospel from Luke 1:26-38 presents the familiar scene of the Angel Gabriel being sent by God to announce to Mary that she would become a mother to the Son of God. This is one of the passages that I spent many hours pondering during my recent thirty-day Ignatian retreat, and the first thing that really struck me is the opening line. Luke takes us from the universal and the general and slowly reveals more and more details about the circumstances and locations and people until we finally zero in on the person of this virgin Mary. I also developed a system of highlighting the scriptures, using different colours and symbols to highlight the words that signify location, the words spoken by God or an Angel, other key characters, as well as the different responses of people, ranging from positive, through neutral to negative and even sinful and demonic responses. This passage features the Angel acting as a direct instrument of God, and Mary, responding as best as she can. We will see the dialogue is almost entirely that of Gabriel, with only two responses recorded of Mary – yet both continue to resonate very strongly with those who follow the way of Jesus.
Despite her confusion, fear and doubtless anxiety, Mary becomes for us the perfect model of Advent and thus of Christmas. She questions the basic possibility of a virgin conceiving, yet her final answer calls every Christian to a similar response of trust and openness.