The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:28-29)
Once again in scripture, when an angel comes to visit, the first reaction is to be troubled or afraid. Mary is probably close to the age when young girls get married in those days, since we know she is engaged to be married to Joseph. That means Mary is probably a young girl, most likely about twelve or thirteen years of age. With that ahead she is perhaps excited – venturing out into life as a young adult and a wife. She may also be nervous – venturing out into life as a young adult and a wife!
In any event, whatever Mary is expecting, this visit by the Angel Gabriel isn’t part of it. The angel appears and Mary is immediately troubled. This may be just the shock of the appearance – you don’t get a visit from an angel every day. But it may be that Mary knows the history of angels. They never show up without a reason. And often the reason is life changing and unexpected. The arrival of the angel means whatever Mary has been up to and whatever plans she has made, what lies ahead will be altered.
This encounter moves quickly and in surprising ways. The angel tells Mary that she will become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and that she will bear a child who will change the world. Although she is young and not yet married, she takes this news in Luke’s gospel remarkably well. She responds with a willing spirit and a desire to be useful to God. And she authors a response that has been put to song and called “The Magnificat,” based on the opening line, “My soul magnifies the Lord…”
In our lives, we may not always have remarkable encounters with messengers sent by God. But because of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends, we are all connected to God and offered callings and guidance from a God who continues to do amazing things in our time as well. Staying open to the work of the Spirit and the voice of God calling to us helps us to learn from Mary’s experience and her response. God often calls to us in ways that seem initially troubling to our current status quo. But a willing spirit may just allow us to be part of writing history in our time.