When the angel first appears to Mary her first reaction is not joy! In fact, one version of the account in Luke says she was “greatly troubled” and another says she was “thoroughly shaken.”
The angel has to reassure her and tell her “not to be afraid.”
In fact, the reaction from Mary followed this pattern: fear, questions, and then acceptance.
It can be easy to think that straight after the angel left, Mary sang her song of praise. But, we need to remember that she visited her cousin. As Elizabeth lived in another town, Mary would have to make a journey of at least three days to get to her cousin’s house from Nazareth. This would have been three days of thinking time.
I wonder what Mary thought about on that journey. She knows she can’t stay with Elizabeth forever. Her life is going to get harder as more people notice her obvious belly. I wonder if she had already had that all-important conversation with Joseph? Was she mulling it over? Or rehearsing how it would go?
So much to worry and wonder about. And yet, when she arrives at Elizabeth’s house, she responds to her circumstances with a song of praise.
Mary’s prayer of gratitude and praise comes in the midst of very hard circumstances. She didn’t get to praise and gratitude straight away, for that would have been a false acknowledgment of her circumstances. But when she finally gets to her point of acceptance. She chooses praise.
I love this line from the Bethel song that inspires this series:
Sing praise my soul, find strength in joy
Mary faced nine months of uncertainty about her role as a new mother. Nine months of figuring out with her relationship with Joseph. Nine months of dealing with the inevitable questions and comments from her community. But faced with these nine months, Mary learned that the key to surviving the waiting was to find strength in joy.
What about you in your waiting?
Have you gone through the stages that Mary went through? Have you gone through fear, questions and acceptance? Have you looked at all the facets of your circumstances numerous times? What would life look like now if you choose praise? What would it look like if you choose gratitude?
For there is strength to be found in releasing all to the one who can hold it all. There is strength to be found in praise in the face of your circumstances. There is strength in joy.
I have been afraid,
I have questioned,
I have accepted
the path placed before me.
Yet still I worry
still I wonder.
I ask you now
to help me
in spite of
I thank you
that you are
I thank you
can give me
even in the midst
of the waiting.