Today’s scriptures all speak of Divine intervention, of God breaking into our everyday world. God is disruptive, and that is really a good thing for us. We need His help to disrupt the mediocrity and banality that can be found in our ingrained patterns. Although this is not comfortable at the moment, it is the ultimate bedrock for understanding genuine security, which comes from the knowledge that God is working and accomplishing His purposes, and that we can be part of that process.
Isaiah’s discussion of King Ahaz tells of offer and rejection. God offered a sign to Ahaz to strengthen his faith during a time when Ahaz’ kingdom was being threatened. The verse immediately preceding today’s passage provides God’s caution to Ahaz: “Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm.” (Is. 7:9b) In other words, if you don’t stand in faith, you won’t be left standing!
For some reason, Ahaz wanted to avoid any supernatural confirmation. His reaction, though outwardly pious, may instead mask the stubbornness we sometimes see in young children: “I can do it myself.” We all say that from time to time. Sometimes, even when we are anxious or suffering, we prefer the consolation of solitude and worry rather than allowing the King of Glory to enter in. This is truly a paradox. In my own life, I attribute this to the comfort of what is known outweighing the fear of disruption. There is an internal calculus that goes on, but the measuring is distorted by our own fears. We fool ourselves into maintaining the status quo, rather than breaking out of an old pattern.
Isaiah breaks in with still another offer for a sign, one which does not have such an overt, glorious, and obvious impact. Instead, he promises a sign that would be more secret and enigmatic, and one which would require some sensitivity to recognize. It would not be written across the heavens, but instead it would be written first in the heart of Mary several hundred years later, and confirmed through many others as time would unfold.
Luke’s account of the announcement to Mary reflects a decidedly different reaction to a sign. Mary’s humanity is evident in her initial troubled reaction to the visitation by Gabriel, and to the sensible questions she raises. God had intervened in her world by sending an angel to her little town, Nazareth, to bring her news. Gabriel brought words of comfort to Mary to calm her fears, but ultimately, the words were also disruptive. She was to become the vessel through which the Incarnation of the Son of God would occur. Here, too, Mary is also given another sign, which is distinct from the visitation by an angel. She is told that her kinswoman, Elizabeth, is pregnant, even though she is thought to be too old to bear children. Mary is thus shown that “nothing will be impossible for God.” (v. 37).
Mary’s acceptance of the visitation and the sign is a beautiful reflection of her faith in the promise of God, in his Love, and in His creative power to bring about His will. We can all benefit from remembering her example of faith, especially when we know we need to embrace the disruptive, creative power of God in our lives.
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