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Reform Magazine | July 13, 2024

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Chapter and Verse: Luke 1:5-38 - Reform Magazine

Chapter and Verse: Luke 1:5-38

Joshua Norris surveys different responses to Christ’s birth

When I read Luke’s account of the Christmas story, I find myself fascinated by the assortment of reactions to God’s activity in those days. The angel Gabriel first appears to Zechariah who at the time was serving as ‘priest before God’. Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, both of whom were considered ‘righteous before God’ had no child. Both were of an age where such blessings seemed biologically improbable. When the angel of the Lord appeared to inform Zechariah that the couple would be blessed with a son, who was destined to pave the way for the coming Messiah, Zechariah met this news with utter disbelief. How could the seemingly impossible be made possible? Surely, if this blessing of God was to happen, it would have happened a long time ago. Zechariah demonstrated that when circumstances look bleak, it can be very difficult to respond to God’s promises with faith and acceptance.

Mary, on the other hand, was a remarkable young woman and she responded wholly differently. God had plans to put her in a predicament that society could not tolerate. A young, unmarried woman was to become pregnant with God’s absolute gift of grace outside of wedlock. This was like no other teenage pregnancy that history would come to know. She was, after all, a virgin. However, in society’s eyes perception is everything. Truth can often be cast aside to make way for an opinion rooted in misconception, a misconception that, in Mary’s case, could lead to her death. Mary’s response, though, was as astounding as the miraculous conception she was to be a part of. Before the angel of the Lord, she states, ‘Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ Concerns about what people thought about this blessing, or indeed might have done to her, surely rattled around her worried thoughts. Yet Mary was willing to lay them down to perform the task God had placed before her. To be mother to Emmanuel – God with us. There has never been a higher calling on someone’s life before or since. God was ushering in the age of the promised Messiah. Mary responded with willing obedience to God’s perfect will and trusted God entirely…

Joshua Norris is minister of Bocking and Halstead United Reformed Churches in Essex

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This is an extract from an article published in the December 2023/January 2024 edition of Reform

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