The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she had found favour with God and was going to give birth to God’s son. Mary wondered how this could possibly be true since she was a virgin but responded with the words, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said.”
Her immortal “Yes” has been painted, written about, and celebrated ever since. But what if Mary had said, “No.” What if, in that moment, she pulled the plug on the most beautiful aria in history. Imagine the pained look on Gabriel’s face if he had to tell the hosts of heaven to pack up shop. Would that have been the end of the story or would they have hastily gone looking for another young woman to take Mary’s place?
But Gabriel did not come to ask Mary if she wanted to bear the Son of God. He simply announced what would happen: the Holy Spirit would come upon her, the power of the Most High overshadow her, and the One born to her would be called Jesus.
It seems to me that if Mary didn’t want to hear Gabriel’s news and told him to go away, she still would have gotten pregnant and given birth to our Lord. But Jesus would have been born to a mother who didn’t want him, didn’t love him, and would not have encouraged him to be himself. He would have grown up to do all that God asked him to, while bearing the sorrow of being rejected by his own mother. Isaiah 49:15 would have become prophetic: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion for the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you.”
If Mary had interpreted Gabriel’s message as a burden foisted upon her, she would have gone down in history as the woman who missed the opportunity to enjoy mothering the Saviour of the world.
Mary’s story pierces our hearts because we too have been presented with a great opportunity. Whether we choose it or not, we have been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit who finds one way or another to be born in us. Everything in life has the potential of opening us to God. And God uses these things to enter the core of our being, so God can love us and be loved by us. The Holy One comes to us… whether or not we see it.
The question is not: will I allow God’s kingdom to come—for it most surely will—but, will I, like Mary, believe I have found favour in his sight? Will I praise God for his coming to me?
How silently, how silently,
the wondrous Gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
the blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
but in this world of sin,
where meek souls will receive Him still,
the dear Christ enters in.
– O Little Town of Bethlehem