It Could Have Happened Like This
The angel Gabriel, an eternal optimist who leaves realism to God, is charged by God to go and visit a human female to bring her the ‘great’ news that she will have a child without a father . . .
Perhaps he first goes to Jerusalem and seeks out a girl . . . maybe her name was Tabitha . . .
Tabitha, it’s me, the angel Gabriel, and boy, do I have some great news for you! God wants to send a baby into the world, a very special baby, and God wants you to be his mother! What do you think of that?
Imagine our fictional Tabitha . . . busy cutting and chopping, helping to prepare the evening meal . . . she hears a buzzing in her ear . . . it sounds like words . . . but there’s no one in the room . . . so she just swipes at her ear to chase away the imagined gnat and goes on chopping . . .
Gabriel is astonished . . . immediately back in heaven, he reports to God what has just happened . . . God merely smiles and tells him to go back . . .
Next imagine Gabriel visits a girl in Bethlehem itself . . . now this is a good plan, he thinks to himself . . . they’ve got to be here for the census anyway, so why not start out here?
Anna, he shouts, having learned that a whisper simply will not do . . . and poor Anna immediately drops to the ground in a dead faint . . .
And so it goes, girl after girl, town after town . . . one is too busy to be bothered . . . one doubts her own sanity and refuses to believe Gabriel is an angel of the Lord . . . one is too frightened by the shame and degradation she will experience . . . one gets so angry she chases Gabriel out of the house with a broom . . .
By this time, Gabriel, still an optimist, is getting frustrated . . . Lord, what am I to do? None of them will do it!
God smiled and told Gabriel, Go back. . . you’ll find her . . . have faith . . . which is a very unusual thing to say to an angel . . .
And so back to earth he goes . . . out of towns and out of ideas, he finally turns his attention to Nazareth . . . a town so small it’s not really a town at all. . . kind of like McDowell or Headwaters. . . and there he notices a teenage girl all alone . . .
By now, Gabriel has figured out that he needs to get them alone . . . too many human voices drown out his message or distract the girls from his good news . . .
There she is, all by herself! What good fortune! But Gabriel doesn’t get too excited . . . after all, by now, he’s done this a thousand times . . .
But this one . . . she really is different . . . she’s just as confused as the others, but she is also curious . . . and she listened to Gabriel . . . really listened . . . much of what he said still didn’t make sense to her, but she got the basics . . . God wanted her to have a baby . . . God’s baby . . .
Gabriel waited with bated breath (well, it would have been if angels had breath) for her answer . . .
“Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
She agreed! She said yes!
And all heaven poured forth its Hallelujah!
And she, the girl named Mary, the one who said yes to God’s invitation into the divine love story, sings her joy . . .
. . . my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’–Mary’s Magnificat, Luke 1.47-55 (NRSV)