This communion liturgy was based on a message on the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-45). An excerpt is included below.
We tend to move past Mary’s perplexed and pondering, wordless response to Gabriel’s next words. But translators have made this story easier for us by using “perplexed” or “confused.” The actual Greek word means, “to be wholly disturbed.” No wonder the next thing Gabriel says to her is “Don’t be afraid.”
To such an announcement, Mary responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Such a pious and unassuming response. We have a similar picture of Mary on Christmas Eve. Where the heavenly host is once again announcing the Good News of Great Joy – and Mary is simply pondering these things in her heart. (Luke 2:1-19)
- Mary, God’s pure lily.
- Mary, God’s chosen vessel.
- Mary, the humble servant.
How easy it is for us to forget that this is a call story. Just as Moses’ burning bush, David’s anointing by Samuel, or Paul’s Damascus Road. Our understanding of Scripture is often cast from the perspective of men. And to some extent, I think we’ve done this with Mary.
In first century Israel, Mary has been around pregnant women, childbirth and infants all her life. She probably wouldn’t feel the same fear that many new parents today have when they need to actually take their newborn home from the hospital and be completely responsible for the tender mystery of life. The baby, Mary could handle. But she wasn’t equipped to have the conversations and confrontations that this pregnancy would cause.
Gabriel goes on to give a few more details about God’s plan, and Mary responds, “How can this be?” Gabriel then tells her about how the Holy Spirit will overshadow her and the child she bears will be holy. I don’t think this really answered Mary’s question. I think she’s actually asking how it’s going to be for her.
Despite Gabriel’s kind greeting, Mary is “wholly disturbed.” When Gabriel leaves her, I doubt she either falls back to sleep or goes on with her household work. I doubt she was overshadowed with peace. It might be interesting for us to know that this word “overshadowed” is the same word to describe God’s presence at Jesus’ transfiguration. (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:34) And if we remember, Peter, James and John – three grown men – were scared out of their minds.
This is not just an announcement it is Mary’s call story.
Like Mary, we too, feel “wholly disturbed” and fearful when confronted by God’s plan, which is so different from the future we imagined. We wonder, “How can this be?” because it is more than we can understand. Like Mary, we too, feel “wholly disturbed” and fearful when we don’t feel equipped to follow the path God calls us to – to go where we have not been before. And like Mary, we may not feel comforted by Gabriel’s words, “Nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary said, “Yes” to God’s call.
Mary said yes, not because Gabriel had explained everything or promised to smooth out all the problems with her family. Mary said, “Yes,” because our faith is found in the One who is powerful and who is with us. Gabriel reminds Mary of the same thing. The very first words Gabriel speaks – “Greetings, favored one!” – is literally “Rejoice, one who has received grace.” Gabriel announces Good News of Great Joy to Mary. Gabriel’s greeting is joy and grace!
But God’s grace didn’t end there. Actions speak stronger than words, and God gives Mary something tangible to edify her as she takes a step in faith that changes the entire course of her life.
We forget what happened after the angel left. Mary “set out with haste” to go see Elizabeth. With eagerness and zeal, she wants to see if it’s true that a barren woman can conceive – to see if it’s true that nothing is impossible with God. I think this was why Mary was in a hurry. Yes, she might have wanted to congratulate Elizabeth, but even more, Elizabeth was proof that God’s word was true.
Elizabeth’s greeting confirms both Mary’s pregnancy and her own. At six months pregnant, Elizabeth was very physical confirmation that nothing is impossible with God. For three months, Mary stays with Elizabeth. Can we imagine the wisdom, encouragement, and prayer that took place between these two women during this time? The way Scripture is told, it seems that Mary leaves before John as born, but I think this might just be Luke’s way of transitioning us from Mary to John’s birth. I think Mary stayed for three months because she wanted to see this miracle baby.
Advent is a period of both looking back and looking forward. We light candles to represent Jesus Christ, light of the world, taking on human flesh. But we also light them as a statement of hope as we live in this in-between time awaiting when we do not
need the sun or the moon to shine on [us], because God’s glory is [our] light, and [our] lamp is the Lamb….and there will be no night.
In a way, it is always Advent for those whose hope is in Christ. This Advent, we find ourselves in-between who we were and who we will be. We are in-between the things we know and things yet unknown. But as people of faith, our in-between time is always filled with hope.
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Ever-creating God, we remember how you brought order from chaos and spoke light into being. We remember how your mighty hand delivered your people from the oppression of slavery. We give you thanks for the ways you bring order and freedom to our lives today.
Ever-saving Jesus, we remember your first saving act was simply to be born. In your life, you made broken people whole. In your death, you showed us how to be faithful. In your resurrection, you proved that God’s response to death is life. We give you thanks for the ways you continue to bring us life.
We give thanks for your final meal with your disciples. How you took the bread, gave thanks for it, broke it and gave it to them, saying: Take, eat. This is my body given for you. In the same way, you took the cup, gave thanks for it and gave it to the disciples, saying: This is the cup of the new covenant, sealed in my blood for the forgiveness of sins.
Ever-present Spirit, we remember how you made yourself known through wind and fire. We testify to your continued presence with us today. We pray, Holy Spirit, that you would make yourself known in the bread and the cup today. May they be our true communion with Christ and one another. In boldness, we join our voices to pray: Our Father…
This table is grace upon grace. As Elizabeth was a physical testimony of God’s announcement, so to, this table is a physical testimony to God’s grace. As we ponder the mystery of the incarnation, this table testifies to Immanuel, God with us. As we anticipate Christ’s return, this table testifies to the heavenly banquet we will share during Christ’s everlasting reign of justice.
Come and experience God’s faithfulness – God’s Good News of great joy!
Prayer After Communion
Jesus, King at your birth, our souls are filled with the meal that we shared. With joy, you invite us to your table. With grace, you feed us for our journey. May we offer you the joy and faithfulness of our lives in response. Amen.
 Revelation 21:23, 25 (CEB)