“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a tow 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 be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob 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 upon you, and the power of the Most High will over-shadow 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 barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:26 – 38 (NIV)
We are in the third week of Advent. This is the week we light the candle of Joy. The color of this candle is typically pink, and it gets its name because it is lit on the third Sunday of Advent which is Gaudete Sunday. Named for the antiphon for that Sunday’s Mass: “Rejoice (Gaudete) in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice. But why pink? I am glad you asked. According to the website Catholichotdish.com: “Since Advent is patterned after Lent, Gaudete Sunday is similar to the Lenten Laetare Sunday, which also represents Joy…In the ancient church on Laetare Sunday in Lent, the Pope gave a citizen a pink rose.
The tradition of the pink rose continues through the pink candle that represents joy which is the theme of the third week of Advent where we remember the waiting for the appointed time of Jesus’ birth into the world just as we continue our waiting for Jesus’ second coming into the world today. This week is the week for rejoicing as the time is coming soon!
But if you do a close reading of the above passage, Mary was not filled with joy over the news about becoming a mom. While she and Joseph were betrothed and the only way to break a betrothal in that day was via a divorce…they had not yet married, and their union had not yet been consummated. She was still a virgin. And now this angel is telling her she is highly favored, and she will have a baby and isn’t this the best news ever!!!! Think about being an unmarried teenager today finding out you are pregnant. I believe this was how Mary felt. I am pretty sure Joy was not part of the emotions that flooded through her in hearing the angel’s news.
For Mary, I believe the initial hearing of this news was anything but joyful. In fact, I think when we take the time to understand the customs and culture of Mary’s day, she was scared by this news. We seem to have corroboration of her fear in the simple fact the angel sees she is troubled, the text tells us she is troubled and so the angel tells her: “Do not be afraid.” And then continues to introduce her to the baby she will give birth to.
But Mary still has questions and the angel seeing her trying to understand all that this news will mean to her life is compassionate and answers her questions. The angel even gives her a sign by sharing the news that her cousin Elizabeth, who is old and past the chil- bearing years is pregnant and is in her sixth month. If you look at the very next passage beginning with verse 39, you see that Mary hurries to Elizabeth to see for herself and before she is even able to get past her greeting to Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby leaps within his mother’s womb and Elizabeth begins to prophesy about the baby Mary will give birth to. Talk about having confirmation everything will be alright in the long run! But first Mary must get past her fear as she shares this news with her future husband.
There is also the realization that the future will not be an easy one. Culturally both Mary and Joseph will have hurdles to overcome. Mary will give birth to God’s own son and she will see him die on a cross. Mary will love him and teach him, and she will see him grow up and leave home only to be looked down on by the religious elite of their day. Mary will indeed be highly favored of all women and Mary’s life will be filled with both deep joy and immeasurable sorrows. Which makes Mary’s response to the angel: “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said,” quite remarkable.
And so, for all of us today, it is during this week of Advent that we celebrate the Joy of waiting for Jesus. The Joy of anticipating the coming Messiah, the anointed one of God into this world. It is also important for us to remember that while this week we light the pink candle of Joy, this candle is also surrounded by the purple candles…and purple reminds us that there is a cross to bear. Advent is linked forever to Lent. Just as Jesus’ birth is linked to his death on the cross. There is no way to have one without the other. But that is a source of great Joy for all people.