We now turn to the narrative of the New Testament. Strange things have already taken place and more are foretold. In a vision, Mary’s barren cousin Elizabeth has been told she would conceive a son who was to be named John. ‘He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ Luke 1:16-17. We believe John was to fulfil the prophecy which we read three weeks ago: ‘A voice cries out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord’. Isaiah 40:3. John became a powerful voice persuading many to turn from their evil ways, to repent and to be baptized. He also told them: ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire’. Luke 3:16. In due course, he recognized Jesus and baptized him. Here is the prophecy by the Angel Gabriel to Mary:
[The Angel Gabriel] came to [Mary] and said: “Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:28-33.
Mary and Joseph, the man she was to marry, live in Nazareth, a town in hilly country in Galilee, an area fairly remote from Jerusalem. Joseph, we are told, was a carpenter. This means that Jesus – God become human, God incarnate – was born to a working family far away from the centre of power. Amazing! Here is a short prayer acknowledging this:
God, we thank you
that you made yourself known
to someone without power, wealth or status;
and we praise you
for the courage of Mary,
this young woman from Galilee,
whose Yes to the shame and shock
of bearing your Son
let loose the unstoppable power of love
which changed the world.
Taken from ‘The Book of a Thousand Prayers’ compiled by Angela Ashwin, Copyright © 1996, 2002 by Angela Ashwin.
Used by permission of Zondervan. www.Zondervan.com