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 favored! 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 favor 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 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. – Luke 1:27-38
There is this painting of Mary that I have hanging in my bedroom. It’s called The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner and it is simply a teenaged Mary sitting on the edge of a first century bed, in a first century bedroom, looking across the room at this golden lit radiating figure. The shaft of yellow paint is meant to represent the angel Gabriel, when he has been sent by God to tell Mary that she would be the mother of Jesus. The room would be dark if he wasn’t there, you can tell it’s late into the night. But the light from Gabriel illuminates the room and shows for us, the viewers of the painted scene, the room decor, and a young Mary.
The part that I study and can’t take my eyes off of is Mary’s face.
Her face says everything to me.
I don’t know how the painter captured it, he clearly wasn’t present for the meeting, but he did it. It feels very human and very teen and you can tell she is listening. She is confused, but listening. She doesn’t know where the conversation is going, but she is in it.
And her hands.
They are clasped together, like they are comforting each other. It is like when you watch a teenager sitting down to her first day at a new school- wide eyes, hands lightly squeezed together, just a hint of anxiousness on her face.
Courage looks like that sometimes, I think. Like hanging on in the moment, even when you may feel worried or confused, holding your hands, and just taking the next step. For Mary, the next step is a simple statement.
Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let everything you’ve said happen to me.” – Luke 1:38
So the question you may be wanting to ask, “Uh, Annie… why is this painting hanging in your room?” And no, it is not Christmas 365 days a year in my home. (But I don’t hate the idea.) In a season of my life where I felt like there was a lot of waiting after a lot of instruction, my mom gave me a print of The Annunciation. I don’t even know that she knew how instrumental it would be to my heart, but it speaks to me, daily.
I see Mary and I’m reminded that sometimes, we hear God and the best thing to do is just sit and listen.
I see Mary’s face and I’m reminded that digesting what you hear, thinking, listening, believing the instruction, sometimes those are the bravest things.
I see Mary’s hands and I’m reminded that it is okay to be scared. It’s alright to wonder what is going on and feel a little off-balanced by the turn in your path.
I see Mary’s body, flat stomach, young face, and I’m reminded that sometimes courage takes the form of patiently waiting while God grows in you what only He could do.
Sometimes it takes a lot of waiting and a little fear to keep on the brave path that God has picked for us. I feel that in my heart, I see that in my life, and I stare at that truth almost every day when I see Mary.
And I want to sound like her. I’m Your servant, Lord. Let everything You’ve said happen to me.
(The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased with the W. P. Wilstach Fund, 1899)
Original post by Annie F. Downs for FaithGateway, 2014. Annie is an author and speaker based in Nashville, Tennessee. You can read more at anniefdowns.com or follow her at @anniefdowns.
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Are you waiting? Are you frustrated with relentless waiting? Advent is about waiting… looking backward to Christ’s first coming and looking forward to His second coming. We’re in the in-between time… Waiting. Living with suffering and yet pregnant with hope. Come join the conversation on our blog! We would love to hear from you about waiting and hoping! ~ Devotionals Daily