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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Written by Susan Hanson

Friday, December 17

And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
—Luke 1:28-29

Sometimes the title of a song says it all. In Mary’s case, that title might well be “Imagine My Surprise,” a tune by folksinger Holly Near. Hardly a likely candidate to give birth to the promised Messiah, Mary was reportedly “perplexed” by the appearance of an angel, a messenger of God, announcing that her life was about to be radically changed. 

No doubt Mary wondered how she, a poor unmarried girl, could be expected to handle such a role. She wasn’t exactly being asked, after all; she wasn’t given an opportunity to explain why she was thoroughly unsuited to the task. What the angel had conveyed was a fact, not an invitation.

Scripture tells us that Mary ultimately responded by accepting this call, saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” In the meantime, however, she was doubtful and confused. Was this how God showed his favor?

Mary has been admired for her openness and obedience to God, her pliability. These are virtues, but her experience illustrates an equally important truth about our encounters with the holy: Mary was “much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” 

In short, before sharing the angel’s message with anyone else, she admitted her doubts and reflected on what she was hearing. Mary didn’t automatically assume that this annunciation came from God, and she never pretended to have a special relationship with the Divine.

Beyond reminding us of the importance of discernment, Mary’s response also emphasizes the fact that God’s word to us is often unsettling, his vision of us often contrary to the way we see ourselves. This is what God knows you can become, the angel was announcing to Mary; this is who God created you to be. 

O God, may I learn to recognize your voice and trust your call to be a Christ-bearer to your world.

These Signposts originally appeared on explorefaith in 2004.