8th December

30 But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’ (Luke 1:30-33)

Like Zechariah, Mary is frightened by Gabriel’s surprise greeting; but as with Zechariah (v.13), Gabriel reassures Mary, telling her not to be afraid (v.30). The grace-language continues: Mary is told that she has “found … grace from God”. Grace is not what is earned, but what is freely given. Mary does not earn this grace and favour from God; God found her instead. This was God’s historic intention and now comes to fulfilment. The sequence and control of time, reflected by the gliding between moments in history, is arresting in these verses. Focus switches to the future as Mary is told what will happen: she will have a son, Jesus (v.31). Finally, the first explicit mention of Jesus in this account! We discover more about his identity in verse 32: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” This is true of Jesus, but he redefines greatness, equating it with servanthood (Mark 10:44; Luke 22:27): in his earthly life, he comes to serve rather than to be lofty.

Ultimately, Jesus’ reign is eternal. By evoking the patriarchs, David and Jacob, Gabriel reveals to Mary that Jesus will continue that historical lineage: there is a genealogical relation. Yet, this is no ordinary reign. Monarchs – including David and Jacob – are born and die; Jesus “will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever” (v.33). This is because his kingdom is not an ordinary one. It is mind-bending, as the flitting around in sequence and history here shows, but Jesus’ kingdom will never end because he inaugurated it in the very beginning and sustains it: He is both the “pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

If we follow Christ, we dwell in that same kingdom today, although it is only here in part. We are, nevertheless, called to seek it first (Matthew 6:33) – both a helpful perspective and a positive challenge for us in Advent.

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