We often times think of angels as cute little babies with wings, but the Biblical testimony doesn’t back that up especially in the story of Advent. In Luke, we hear about what Mary thought when the angel popped up and told her that she was highly favored and God was with her. “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.”
I was thinking about this story, and Mary wasn’t sure exactly what this was. Presumably, she did not have any experience with angels before this encounter. After all, she was wondering even what kind of greeting this was, and she was afraid that she was greatly favored. The angel’s initial phrasing was a very positive message. There was nothing threatening about it whatsoever. The angel was informing her that she was very special and God was with her.
Nevertheless, Mary was afraid. We can attribute this fear to a few things I think that we still struggle with today. The first and most obvious one is that angels seem to be very bright, powerful beings. If one showed up in my living room, I would be pretty terrified as well. I think I would also be pretty terrified if I saw one anywhere, but especially if I was caught by surprise, I can understand why she might be troubled by this.
However, it goes further than that because Luke specifically wrote that it was the words of the angel that terrified Mary. Something about being favored by God and having God with her made her nervous. As we find out later in the story, Mary was a very faithful woman who was committed to doing what God wanted. It was not a lack of faith that made her nervous.
I would like to propose that we all get a little bit nervous when God gives us a specific job. This is pretty consistent with the scriptural testimony as well. Moses was not thrilled about going before Pharaoh. Jonah was not thrilled about going to Nineveh.
I think that most of the hesitation comes from the fact that when we find out that God wants us to do something, it is normally something that is pretty crazy. It seems that most of the time, these jobs are miraculous to say the least. There are things that don’t happen every day, so when Mary heard that God was coming to her to do something remarkable, even before she knew what it was, if she knew anything about the history of Israel, she would have known that something amazing was going to happen. She would have known it would be difficult as well though, and if she was anything like most of us, walking into a difficult situation is not on the top of our priority list.
As we think about Advent then, it should give us some cause of hope. It should give us some encouragement because even Mary was a little bit nervous. If we are nervous when we feel God calling us, it is okay. However, at the end of the day, Mary was more committed to following God than to crumbling under the pressure of her nerves. That is important for us as well.
 Luke 1:29, NIV.