A Choice Between Wonder or Fear


In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 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.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 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.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

[Luke 1:26-38]


Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece), Workshop of Robert Campin, ca. 1427–32.

If someone were to ask me what I’d do if I met God, I’d likely say that I would be excited. We would talk, hug, and it would be an incredibly powerful experience. But in reality, the sheer disbelief of God talking to me would probably lead to me hanging my mouth open in pure shock. When Mary is given a message from God through the angel Gabriel, she does not rejoice. She was “greatly troubled” by the angel’s exclamation, and one can imagine the confused thoughts racing in her mind as he explains that she will have God’s child. Miracles were happening all around her and her faith in God was steadfast, yet such an encounter seems to be unbelievable to her at first.

When we are faced with God, we are given a choice between wonder or fear. Fear is natural. It’s important. Many turn away from God because they know such an existence could raise endless, terrifying, and potent questions. Yet over time, those who fear God grow to be in awe of such love and power. “If you will fear the Lord, …it will be shalom” (1 Samuel 12:14).

Like Mary, sometimes we all need to take that leap of faith, hold up our hands, and say “I am the Lord’s servant.” Faith only can exist with fear. This Christmas season, let’s reflect on the story of Jesus in awe of our creator and the great divine mystery that is God.

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