Sally’s Sweet-tooth Cafe.
A double shot of hot chocolate with marshmallows floating graciously on the surface meant that I had exceeded my calorie count for the week in one sitting. I was left with just one option: burn some of those nasty calories by stretching my tired legs through the dark park towards home instead of taking a cab like any other sensible person would.
Pods in place streaming my ‘Crazy Times’ playlist, I swapped stilettos for running shoes for a more comfortable approach to my daring deed. The thought of walking through the lonely park that night would normally scare me, but today, my sugar-impaired state of mind gave me a bump of bravado. The air was so crisp, I could breathe it all in. I watched as the leaves seemed to dance to the tune of my playlist with each step I took.
With about 30 minutes of brisk walking left, I took a break beside a water fountain. It was one of the few left in the park thanks to those who would rather vandalize than preserve. From the corner of my eye, I saw a light approaching as I tried to fill up my bottle with water. The gardener surely couldn’t be working at this time of the night. My thoughts were immediately put to rest as the light that once was a little glow suddenly exploded into a blast of fiery brightness. I wished I could run away, but I stood frozen. It would be crazy to run anyway, as I couldn’t see anything behind the blinding light and would risk running into a pole, passing out and getting captured by whatever extra-terrestrial being was radiating such brightness.
Oh no! Who was there that knew my name? I tried to squint, making out a form within the light.
“DO NOT BE AFRAID”
Okay! Thanks for the advice that surely wasn’t helping much.
“THE LORD IS PLEASED WITH YOU”
I knew I shouldn’t have had that much hot chocolate. Now I was not only seeing things but hearing stranger things.
Suddenly the brightness began to wane, or my eyes adjusted to it and I saw his face. Beauty had nothing on him. His gold locks remained firm on his well-shaped head and didn’t seem to respond to the madness of the wind around. Then I saw the wings towering high above his head, flapping to a rhythm that somehow calmed me.
Lots of people have spoken about having angelic encounters, but their descriptions were more like an old man in the dumpster pushing a cart with one missing wheel.
This. Was. The. Encounter.
“The Lord is pleased with you.” That was the last thing he said before my mind went racing round his perfect form. Why did he say that? And of all the days, on the one when I rushed out of bed like a madwoman and didn’t have my ‘quiet-time’.
“YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL WITH GOD’S BEAUTY. BEAUTIFUL INSIDE AND OUT”
Surely, I must be mad, or this angel is hitting on me.
“GOD HAS A SURPRISE FOR YOU: YOU WILL BECOME PREGNANT AND GIVE BIRTH TO A SON. HE WILL BE KING OF ALL KINGDOMS AND HE WILL REIGN FOREVER”
“But how? I’ve never slept with a man.”
That came out rather abruptly. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the question I wanted to ask. More like: “HOLD UP!!! You say WHAAAAT?”
“THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL REST ON YOU AND GOD’S POWER WILL HOVER OVER YOU; THE CHILD WILL BE CALLED HOLY, SON OF GOD.”
Faint now, girl, that’s your cue.
“YOUR COUSIN, ELISE, IS PREGNANT. YOU KNOW, NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.”
Elise? What? Isn’t she like 75 years old or something?
Weird pause and a sudden realization that this is no joke.
“Yes, it all makes sense: I belong to God and I am ready to do whatever He says, in fact, I cannot wait to see this happen!”
Did I blink or what? Where did he go? My last words hadn’t completely rolled off my tongue before he disappeared, and everything came right back to me and the fountain and my bottle on the ground. I bent down to pick it up when reality hit me.
Pregnant? Out of wedlock?
My job, I just started a month ago!
Was I ready to have a baby? It’s not a project on an Excel sheet. It’s a baby, a new life that will be completely dependent on me.
His name released the tears I had tried hard to hold back. How will I ever explain to Joey that I have been faithful to him? Will he ever believe me? Will he still want me? Will he stay?
My knees hit the ground and my face brushed the dirt. The puddle began to grow where my tears landed. Then the sobs. And the scream. I knew I couldn’t go through with it.
Oh, Mary! How did you feel when you got the news from the angel Gabriel that you would bear the Son of God? Were you anxious? Were you worried? Were you scared? Did you ever consider the implications of how it might change your life? Surely, you are human. You must have thought this to be a sudden disruption to your plans and circumstance. Were you ready to be a mother? It is an awful lot of responsibility. What about Joseph? Did you think about him and how he would react before you accepted such a task?
We will never know!
Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and travelled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39)
Oh, Mary! In the moment of decision, you didn’t want a distraction. Not a minute passed after the biggest news of your life before you took to your heels to witness the testimony that would strengthen your faith for the journey ahead.
But how was the journey to Ain Karim? What went on in your mind through those many miles? Did you go in faith believing you would meet a pregnant Elizabeth? Or were you strung on by curiosity, just to see if it was true? Did you think about how the reality of Elizabeth’s pregnancy would ultimately seal your destiny? Did you wish it was all a hoax? Did you hope it was true?
We will never know!
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. (Luke 1:40)
Oh, Mary! There is a baby! It is true, it’s all true. What must that mean for you? Did all the worries come flooding back like a hurricane? You’re going to be pregnant, now that you have confirmed your cousin is too. Did you think yourself able to see this through? Did you doubt yourself even just a bit now that you knew there was no turning back? Would you turn back if you got the chance?
Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour! . . .” (Luke 1:46-47)
Oh my! Mary! You responded in praise. I know you weighed all the consequences. You considered the stigma, cost, readiness, and Joseph’s response. What God was about to take you through was not going to be easy, to say the least, but your response was praise. Having a baby is surely a gift, but ask those who realized they would be having a child that wasn’t in their immediate plans, and they’d tell you how much of an emotional ordeal it is. And so it would have been for you. But you responded in praise. You received with open arms God’s assignment that was certainly bigger than you, and you responded in praise. You praised your way over that mountain, like the children of Israel praising around the wall of Jericho. That was your response: PRAISE!
Father, I thank you for the grace you gave Mary to accept your assignment with a heart full of praise, and because she did, I had a chance at salvation. I thank you that through me, you want others to have the same chance too, so you have given me many assignments that have seemed bigger than me. I have considered the risks and counted the costs and responded in fear. Many times I have been discouraged. Many times I have run away. But the grace you gave to Mary is available to me, so today, in faith, I receive your assignments with a heart full of praise. You gave your all just to show you love me, now how can I hold anything back? So I praise you, that you will look upon a lowly girl like me and send me on your ministry of reconciliation! Help us all to trust you enough to see us through, no matter what. No matter what! In Jesus’ name. Amen!