December 22 I Saturday
“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.’” —Luke 1:30
The first person to know with certainty that the Messiah was at hand was Mary, a young virgin who lived in Nazareth. An angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.” Mary was “greatly troubled at his words,” and in response, the angel said, “Do not be afraid.” The angel then revealed that she would conceive and give birth to a son, Jesus, the promised Messiah (Luke 1:28-33).
There are many reasons why this conversation might have frightened Mary. The sudden appearance of an angel was startling enough, but she would also probably fear the consequences of conceiving a child out of wedlock. According to Jewish wedding customs, betrothal was a legally binding commitment leading up to marriage. A betrothed couple did not live or sleep together, but the ramifications for unfaithfulness during a period of betrothal were as serious as if the couple were already married. When Joseph chose not to divorce her, they both had to live with the stigma of raising a supposedly illegitimate child.
More likely, Mary’s main fear was that what the angel told her was unreasonable from every human perspective. As a virgin, Mary giving birth to a child was totally outside the realm of possibility, yet it would happen nine months later. When God speaks to us, it is rarely about things that are humanly possible because then we would not need Him. He almost always speaks about things that go beyond our ability or understanding, and our natural response is fear.
We are then faced with a choice. We can live where everything is perfectly normal, reasonable and can be explained in terms of human ability, or we can commit ourselves to doing by faith things that are humanly impossible. If there is nothing about our lives that requires a divine explanation, then we are little different from our unbelieving neighbours. What sets the genuine Christian apart is that there are features of his or her life that defy any explanation other than that God is doing something.
Because of how often God says in Scripture, “Do not be afraid,” we might assume it is wrong to be afraid when God speaks to us, as Mary was. But the truth is that fear is a natural and good response when God speaks to us of something out of our depth. It is in recognizing situations that understandably make us afraid that we start looking to God for resources beyond our human capabilities, a disposition which launches us into the thrill and adventure of the Christian life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, when I face situations that make me afraid, thank You that I find in You the resources to face whatever frightens me.