Talk about a crisis! 

With the coronavirus pandemic everybody is talking about a crisis of a kind most of us have never had to face. 

Today we remember a crisis faced by a remarkable young girl and the calmness in which she faced it. Wednesday 25th March is celebrated as the Feast of the Annunciation, the angel’s visit to Mary to tell her that she was to become the mother of Christ (St Luke’s Gospel, 1. 26-38).

Mary must have been an incredible woman. Our first picture of her is as mere teenager.  Having become engaged to a local man, she was probably happily looking forward to a good family life in which she would be content to care lovingly for her husband and children. But God had other plans – such that would put her and her fiancé in a very difficult situation. In the local society of the day, to be an unmarried, pregnant teenager was a scandal. Joseph could of course have divorced her and avoided scandal for himself. Fortunately, as we read in St. Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 1, he chose to stick with her. 

But God had something, more wonderful & revolutionary in mind. It all started with the visit of the Angel Gabriel, which by any normal standards you would think would be an overwhelming experience. He told Mary that she would give birth to the long-expected Messiah of Israel, the one who would once and for all restore Israel’s fortunes. In this extraordinary encounter, what was Mary’s reaction? 

Luke tells us that her fear, if any, was not overwhelming.  She didn’t seem to panic or object and expressed no concern about any social stigma she might be facing. All she wondered was how this might happen as she was a virgin. And when Gabriel told her that is would happen by the power of the Holy Spirit, she appeared to simply accept that.  She could have said, “No way Lord. You must be joking!” but she didn’t. Instead this extraordinary young woman said, “OK. If this is God’s intention for me I’m in his hands; I accept what is being asked of me – whatever the implications for my life.” And the rest, as they say, is history.  

Mary is quite rightly called the Christ Bearer. She was so in a very unique way. But all of us are called to be Christ bearers, not only bearing the name Christians, but bringing, in what we say and do, the light of the all-embracing love of God to those around us day by day, even if and when we find ourselves in situations we do not like.  

This tiny baby, born to this unmarried teenager of very humble stock, from a backwater town in rural Galilee, a far-flung corner of the great Roman empire, and  born in such difficult, unsanitary & untimely circumstances, is the one who gives meaning to all our hopes and plans.  He is the one in whom God is found, seen, known and glorified forever. 

As we face the current disturbing, unwanted coronavirus crisis, can we say as the Virgin Mary did, ”Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

Ben Pullan