It’s a wonderful thing about Scripture that it yields new insights and meaning with repeated readings of the same text. That way it never gets old, another reason I don’t especially like identifying the first testament as the “old” testament. Case in point, look at the context for the famous passage in Isaiah 9 about the incarnation of the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace. I hadn’t noticed what a gory battle scene just preceded. It suggests someone picking through the smoking wreckage of war and collecting the boots and sandals and bloody capes or robes strewn about with the corpses and tossing them into a fire, perhaps to be able to survive the cold of night as well as to clear the land of the last traces of violence and defeat. What a bleak backdrop and what a razor-sharp contrast to the tidings of the One who would bring peace eternally and even surprisingly within his lifetime to the Roman Empire for three consecutive decades in the unprecedented “Pax Romana.” It speaks to the reality that no matter how bleak circumstances may be, hope is about to emerge if we have eyes of faith to see it.
The outset of that peaceful period was marked by the shocked response of young Mary to the angel Gabriel’s news that she, as a virgin, would bear in her womb the Christ-child, the awaited Messiah. But when Gabriel mentions that Mary’s relative Elizabeth is also experiencing “the impossible”, then Mary realizes that she is not in this thing alone, there is someone who will understand and support her, even rejoice with her. This awareness enables Mary to more easily surrender to the process. Sometimes that’s all it takes, a little company to venture into the unknown territory.