The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.– Luke 1:30-33,36-7, 2:10
During the Advent Season, the assurance of our Savior’s arrival is our source of Joy unspeakable. However, Joy’s ultimate fulfillment is predicated on some very important principles: First, Courage is required on the part of the faithful in the face of unbelievable circumstances. The angel said to Mary, “Do not be afraid.” It follows that Mary—a young woman of modest means and meager standing in her community—was called upon to resist fear and to embrace courage in the message that God intended to use her life in ways she could never have imagined. Nothing could have prepared Mary for that moment. Nevertheless, courage enabled Mary to grapple seriously with the news she was receiving. She would perform a central role in God’s amazing activity to transform human history. Everything she possessed, including her very own body, was being called into the service of salvation history. How many of us would be so courageous in the face of such an amazing calling? Courage leads to Joy.
Second, God’s Favor was the only explanation given for why Mary was chosen to make such a difference in the world through her life. Like Mary, nothing we could ever do, decide or design can qualify us for a designated role in God’s unfolding plan. At best, we can seek to lead a life devoted to consecration, dedication and openness to the faithful God who maintains an ongoing interest in human life and human affairs. God cares for all humankind even when the circumstances in our world suggest indifference, callousness, hostility, and an uncertain future. We serve others or make a difference in the world because God allows us to do so. God’s favor toward us leads to Joy.
Third, Nothing is Impossible with God. Embedded in the promise that the Holy Spirit will perform a most incredible and unimaginable feat in Mary’s life is the news that an incredible and unimaginable feat has already occurred in Elizabeth’s life with the birth of John. In sundry ways—some subtle and others glaring—God assures us of divine capabilities to perform profound miracles even when the odds seem stacked up against us. God’s abilities provide the basis for faith, action and future. We mustn’t succumb to despair, fear or hopelessness. Instead, we must continually remember those instances when God performed miracles in the lives of the faithful. God has not changed and is still capable of performing miracles of transformation in and through those who are committed. God’s abilities lead to Joy.
Good news of Great Joy ultimately depends on what God does in and through us! Are we willing to be used for purposes beyond our own interests? Are we eager and ready to be used by God despite the circumstances in our world? Do we still believe that God is not simply capable but also desirous of providing Joy to all people throughout the world?
Dr. Jeffrey Haggray is the Executive Director of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.