On the brink of celebrating the end of Mary’s pregnancy — Christmas begins this evening — we look back to its beginning. Today’s Gospel presents the conversation between Mary and an angel named Gabriel.
Is there, for every person, a pivotal conversation — a conversation that determines the whole course of a person’s life? (“Olivia, can we talk about getting married?”)
Here, in any case, is the pivotal conversation for the human race — the conversation people will always go back to, because here the decisive event for humanity occurred. The angel tells Mary she is chosen to bear God’s Son, and she accepts this responsibility.
To explain the significance of the child she is to bear, the angel refers to David. “The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father” (Lk 1:32). To mention David was to bring kingship to mind — kingship vigorous, powerful, protective and splendid.
This was an invaluable insight for the new mother, because Jesus was not going to look like a king. He was going to be raised by her and her husband in their four-room house in their farming village and was going to work in the building trades. He would never lead an army in battle. He would end his life as a political prisoner, executed for a crime he did not commit.
And yet, Gabriel was announcing to Mary, her son would be infinitely more kingly than David. As Son of God he was to exercise God’s rule over everything — over every cubic centimeter of space and every nanosecond of time, over every situation and relationship, every mind and heart.
His rule would bring the relief of forgiveness, the power of love, the resources for healing and reconciliation, not by force, but freely accepted.
And so a consideration of the conversation between the angel and the young woman leads us to see what is, even now, at the very last minute, before Christmas comes crashing in on us, the essential act of preparation. It is to welcome the king.
To place before this ruler of all rulers my mind and heart, my relationships and situations, my sins and failures and regrets, my hopes and desires and ambitions and fears, and to say to him, “All of this is yours. Do with it, do with me, what you wish. Let me be with you, in your kingdom.”