The story of the angel’s visit to Mary (Luke 1:26-38) sometimes gets crowded out (as it may this year) with the rapid approach of Christmas. That would be a pity, because it has plenty of interest.
It is full of realism. Mary has to be told not to be afraid – this is not the land of fairy stories where angels appear and disappear without comment. She is perplexed, for the message doesn’t seem to make sense. But the thing that strikes me is something that isn’t there. There is no apology.
There could be several, or so we might think. The angel does not apologise for frightening her, puzzling her, disturbing her routine, or (more significantly) for giving her a job which will be emotionally draining, at times deeply traumatic, and immensly difficult. There is no offer of counselling, compensation, or even reward, because . . . ?
Because, in the end, and despite our assumptions, God is entirely within his rights. That sounds harsh. God is not playing with people’s lives, but there is a lot at stake, and what is asked is only what has been freely given. Mary is indeed given a most difficult and demanding role – which is what her life was intended for, and which will bring its own rewards. It is the same for us. God does not apologise for the demands he makes on our lives – our whole lives, all our time, money, and effort. It is what we are intended for, and brings its own rewards.
Perhaps, sometime over Christmas, we shall each feel a bit sorry for ourselves. You know the sort of feeling: undervalued, ignored, overworked . . Mary could so easily have felt like that, or just refused her mission. We celebrate her faith because (whatever she went through on the way) she understood that life is meant to follow the plan of God, and that is how it achieves the best things.