Luke 1: 26-45
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”
My book shelves are increasingly littered with themes addressing the in-between times we are living through: ‘Thriving on Chaos’, ‘The Space In-between’, ‘Culture Shift’ etc. Rapid, discontinuous, change, to ‘we don’t know where’ is one consistent thread.
This was the context for both Elizabeth and Mary, as it is for us. ‘Navigating turbulence’ seems a good analogy to me, because our circumstances, which are beyond our control, are so often changing. The challenge is how do we respond? I’m sure in our best moments we all want our responses to be consistently reflecting Jesus.
Both Elizabeth and Mary, in listening to God, are doing more than simply hearing the words. ‘I am the Lord’s servant’ (Mary) and ‘Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!’ (Elizabeth) are clear indications they have understood God will be with them whatever the future holds, knowing it will definitely include rapid, discontinuous change.
Both Elizabeth and Mary, in looking for where God’s word needs to take root, offer willing hearts. They are the ones for whom the angels’ messages will have life-changing impact.
Both Elizabeth and Mary, will go forwards and live out their faith in God, probably already aware that hardly anyone will believe them.
Both Elizabeth and Mary, have probably already learnt God is faithful and true to his every word, but this will deepen their conviction all the more.
So what about me and you …
Are we listening for God’s particular word to us in the shifting circumstances in which we live? What is it today?
Are we looking for where we need to embed that word? Our heart, or is it for someone else?
Are we actually getting around to acting on what we know God is calling us towards?
Are we reflecting on the results?
It’s clear ‘navigating turbulence’ is not something you can just do. It’s not simply one practice, but threading a few together, so if we’re struggling to make sense of where we are, or where we’re going, we might need to look at each step in turn to discover where we need to pay attention.
Dear Lord, I confess I so often feel I’m at the mercy of what’s happening around me. Help me to not simply go with the flow, but intentionally take the next step you are calling me to take … in the direction and manner you call.