A young, honorable, brown teenager lived on her ancestor’s land that was occupied by the most powerful government in the world at the time. Mary was engaged to a good man with a good trade. She most likely would have lived a descent, nondescript but full life. Except one visit from a celestial being brought news that would change everything.
Many generations prior to this, at the beginning of time, a different woman was grappling with her own uncertain future. Instead of walking with God forever in the Garden of Eden, she was facing expulsion because of her disobedience. Eve clung to the one hope that light would one day return to her world as God promised that her offspring would eventually crush the head of the Evil One, enabling the broken relationship between God and humanity to be reconciled (Genesis 3:15). While Eve never saw this promise fulfilled in her lifetime, the Promised One was now coming through one of her descendants.
Mary, God’s highly favored, was stunned to learn that she would be the woman who would bring this Promised One into the world. So many generations had passed since the time of Eve; so many generations had continued to hope for a Messiah; still, so many never saw this promise come to fruition as they passed it to the next generation. The angel messenger reiterated this God promise, reminding Mary that this One would be great, the Son of God, and he would reign a forever kingdom. All the wrongs would be made right. As an encouragement and a sign to Mary, the angel told her that her own cousin, Elizabeth, miraculously conceiving a child in her old age. And then he leaves her with this, “For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37).
In the years between Eve and Mary, how many times did the Israelites wrestle with their own doubt of God fulfilling this promise to them? How many times did they question God’s goodness? Or maybe even the ability to hear from God? When season after season, generation after generation came and went and nothing seemed to change? And sometimes things changed for the worse and still the coming Messiah seemed ever elusive. But no word from God will ever fail.
Perhaps especially in this COVID Christmas season, we can identify with the Israelites. We can empathize with the experience of living in that time between promise given and promise realized because maybe we’re there in the waiting, too. What words from God have you received? For yourself, your family, your church, your community? Old ones, new ones, forgotten ones, it doesn’t matter; no word from God will ever fail. This Christmas season, reflect on those personal and communal promises of God, and then follow Mary’s lead. Even if the picture is fuzzy, respond with faith in the One who gave you those promises: “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).