God Meets Us in Our Fear

Sunday, December 4, 2022
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier 

Luke 1:26-38

We call this story the Annunciation – when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that that she would have a baby – and not just any baby but the long-awaited Messiah – Emmanuel – God with us.

We are not told what Mary was doing when Gabriel showed up. But whatever it was, he scares her half to death. This strange creature bursts in without permission, bearing the most bewildering and alarming news imaginable. And it Involved her. Getting pregnant with the Son of God.

“Do not be Afraid,” Gabriel told her.

Have you ever noticed how angels always say that whenever they appear to people? My guess is these angels looked as intimidating as all get out. But even in Bible times it was jarring and rare – to have a winged messenger arrive from the throne room of the living God with news for you.

In preparation for this sermon, I googled “annunciation paintings.” Try that when you get home – it is fascinating!  These paintings vary in expression and style, but most often Gabriel is depicted in human form – so not super scary – but with gold, white or even iridescent blue and green wings. Meanwhile Mary is usually shrinking back in fear and disbelief. Gabriel is also often on his knees in front of Mary, waiting with bated breath for her response to all this news. Interesting, isn’t it? This eternity changing plan of salvation was God initiated, but it’s not a one-way street. Mary has a legitimate say in the matter. She could have gone kicking and screaming, or simply said “no.”

If that happened, God certainly could have brought salvation to this world without Mary’s involvement. God has the power to work unilaterally, independently, after all. It undoubtedly would be a lot simpler and less messy without humans in the way. But we have a God who chooses – who CHOOSES – to work in and through ordinary human beings like you and me. Human beings who can say no and fight against God’s call upon our lives.

Thankfully, despite her fear, Mary placed her trust in God’s goodness and responded, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” And because she did, from generation to generation, we will forever call Mary blessed.

When we read this scripture passage, it seems like Mary her decision in an instant, without much of a struggle – But I am not so sure.

Mary is young– probably 13 or 14 years old.   In her culture, women who were found to be unmarried and pregnant had a very real chance of being stoned to death.  And besides, who is going to believe this crazy angel story and that God is the baby’s father? I mean, really!

Mary has no idea if her fiancé Joseph will believe her story or stay with her. And her condition would bring shame upon her family, who might also cast her out.  And then there is the small matter of surviving childbirth, which in her day, was not a given.

Not an easy decision to make.

I know, I know. You may be thinking… yeah, but this is MARY.  Mother Mary! She is different. In some Eastern church traditions, Mary is set apart as the Theotokos, (thee·uh·tow·kows) the God-Bearer or Mother of God.

Without dispute, Mary did have a unique call. Nobody else I know of has been called to physically bear and give birth to Jesus.

But Mary was also an ordinary human being.  A simple, young, peasant woman –without power or status.  She did not glow or float an inch above the ground. And upon hearing this news, she was undoubtedly filled with fear and apprehension.

You and I will probably never receive a jaw-dropping announcement from an angel like Gabriel. But getting unexpected news that turns your life upside down?  We can relate to that.  And all the fear and the confusion that comes with it.

Suddenly our everyday life is interrupted with news that upends our best laid plans. It might be a pink slip at work, a surprise pregnancy, a difficult diagnosis, or a move to a new school.  Sometimes the news is wonderful, and sometimes it is devastating. But if we were not expecting it – it is almost always disorienting and scary.

This intrusion may be unplanned. But like Mary, we have a say in how we respond. We can choose to trust God in this new life that is unfolding. Or we can ignore God’s prompting, dig our heels in and refuse to accept it. We can spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to go back. Or, if that doesn’t work, become bitter and angry and blame God. We have that choice.

If you decide to risk it, and say “yes” to God’s call, it doesn’t guarantee that everything will be easy. You may feel woefully inadequate or unprepared for the task. Your anxiety and fear about the future may linger. But God promises to meet you and walk with you through it. Every step of the way.

Following God into an unexpected future may feel scary. But it can also be exciting, life giving and even thrilling, when you find you are swept up into an adventure far bigger and more significant that your solitary life or daily routine.

God continues to call and use ordinary, everyday human beings –like you and me – to make known the plan of salvation and to bring the Spirit of Christ to the dark places of this world. That is God’s plan. And it involves you. As one preacher put it, when you say “yes” to God, you – like Mary – “agree to smuggle God into the world inside your own body.”[1]

And yes, Christ resides in us through the power of the Holy Spirit. With Mary we too are God bearers and God bringers in this world.

“Here am I, the servant of the Lord.”

When Mary uttered those words, the world changed.

“Here I am, the servant of the Lord.”

If you utter those words, your world will change as well.

But do not be afraid. The Lord is with you.

For nothing will be impossible with God.


[1] Barbara Brown Taylor, Gospel Medicine. (Boston: Cowley Publicaitons, 1995) p. 153

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