I wonder what you feel about that first reading? So often we find out who the people are involved in parts of the narrative. But here we read the name of the father to be but his wife is not named. We don’t know why but she is nameless. Perhaps it is because the writer simply didn’t think it necessary to name her. Maybe the writer didn’t know!
If the tradition of passing on stories orally lost her name that could be the explanation but it would be unusual as the oral tradition was more often extremely accurate. One thing we do know is that God’s messenger gave quite particular instructions for looking after the child to be born. No razor must ever touch the boy’s head! It’s not necessarily what we would expect from a message from God, but that was it. Besides the fact that 3000+ years ago the advice was not to drink alcohol during pregnancy!
Let’s move on to the Magnificat. Symbol of a very different response to a message from God, indeed very different circumstances. We have heard in recent weeks how Hagar’s pregnancy was a result of a wife setting her husband up with another woman so he could be provided with an heir and that both slave and wife became mothers. Neither of them being very happy with their situation. But here we have a far more joyous response.
Although a very young woman, Mary responses to God’s plan with a song. A song full of joy and so much love for her God that Mary had to sing. How amazing that she sings that many generations shall call her blessed, and we do. The blessed virgin Mary. But that doesn’t do this remarkable young person justice. It makes her sound like a girl who is timid, or preferring to be anonymous. But we know that’s not the truth of her, certainly not the entire truth.
Mary was not a woman who was frightened of the responsibility being given to her, she was a strong, but gentle, trusting person. Willing to take this gift from her maker. She would be aware of the comments that would be made about her. The names she would be called. “She’s no better than she should be!” She would be very conscious of what the community would say to Joseph, yet she was strong enough, courageous enough and trusting of God to say yes.
We know she pondered on what God’s messenger said, but in the end her response was joy, excitement. Now, unlike Sarah who Rachel spoke about a couple of weeks ago, Mary has not suffered the agony of infertility. She has never to this point in her life tried to become pregnant. As she sings the words of the Magnificat Mary is praising God for the gift that is being given to her. The gift of an extremely important child, in common with Samson’s mother; although a rather more significant child in the history of humanity.
In her sermon on Advent Sunday Rachel spoke of Hagar and Sarah, and how God promised to make both their sons the foundation of nations. Mary’s son will be significant in a vastly different way. The promise is not that this boy will grow to be a nation, but rather that he will literally save the lives of those who know of him. He will be humanity’s way to reconciliation with their maker. Mary’s song is a celebration of all that her son will be and do. All that he will mean to the world. Let us take Mary’s lead and be joyfully welcoming of Jesus Christ, our Lord, saviour, redeemer and friend, take opportunities to spread this good, no beyond good, news.