Before re-reading this passage, I hadn’t thought about why God decided to have Jesus born to a virgin. Is God showing off with divine flair? Is God after something else? In removing any possibility of Mary’s agency in conceiving Jesus, is God trying to show us the wisdom of surrender?
Mary is quick to relinquish control to God. “Here am I,” she says, “the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (v. 38).
This holds power for me since so much of my own anxiety comes from the illusion of control. Perhaps the most maddening reality of the human condition is that, despite our efforts to change things on the margins, we can’t control the biggest events that govern our lives—whether we have children, when we will die, whether COVID-19 will hit our city, block, or home, and change everything about how we live.
I wonder then, in choosing to impregnate Mary, a virgin, and Elizabeth, a woman far too old to conceive, if God seeks to do more than just show off miracles. Maybe God wants to show Mary how little control she has, and in doing so, provide her freedom to give her fate over to God. That would be a wonderful kindness, it seems to me. How else could a human being cope with the responsibility of being the mother of God?
I’m writing this during the third week of social isolation in New York City, at the epicenter of a global pandemic. Despite doing what experts say I can do to reduce the risk of getting sick, I have a painful understanding that perfection is impossible. Part of my daily practice in this time has to be following Mary’s example to give my agency over to God. Maybe then I’ll find more freedom to enjoy my healthy days at home, even as I fear they might change.
What would this day look like if I started it by saying, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord”?
God, teach me how to put my trust in you. Amen.