"How shall this be...?"

Mary's question may be our own sometimes. And the message she received from God is still capable of setting aside apparent impossibilities.

How many of us have read and reread a beloved story or historical account of an event so many times we thought we knew it by heart, knew everything it said? Certainly I thought I knew the story of Jesus' wondrous birth given in the Bible. But several Christmases ago some familiar words stopped me.

What stood out was Mary's response to the angel's news that she would bring forth a son: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" In other words, "Such a thing is humanly impossible because I have not been with a man." Now, Mary's prophesied role was unique, but don't we often respond to unexpected events or extraordinary demands with much the same thought she had: "Such a thing is impossible... because I lack money, time, strength, friends, faith, experience, education"? Such a reply, mental or audible, assumes that only under certain limited circumstances can particular results come about —that finite, material things such as money or time, one's apparent physical or mental makeup, history, and actions influence all human happenings.

The gift of belonging
December 23, 1991

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