When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How will this happen since I haven’t had sexual relations with a man?”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the one who is to be born will be born will be holy. He will be called God’s Son. Look, even in her old age, your relative Elizabeth has conceived a son. This woman who was labeled ‘unable to conceive’ is now six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible for God.”
Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:28-38, Common English Bible
Ok, ok — I know that was a long passage. Thanks for hanging in there with me. It is the first Sunday of Advent after all — we could all use a time-out for some scripture, right? Right.
The Methodist church, where I work, has been using the CEB version of the Bible for quite some time now and I was just a little excited when I saw it was the version chosen for the Advent Wreath Lighting during this season. Using the CEB during the holiday season is quite adventurous. It’s bold and makes a statement. Perhaps not everyone will pick up on it — but I imagine some people will. That’s what happens when you take an age-old story and use slightly different language to tell it.
I hope people notice at least some of the difference. It adds something to the story … a bit of spunk, if you will. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the CEB is the right version, the only version, and the best translation available — but it might mean that we are able to accept more than one translation of a story. The possibilities that open up with our faith and belief are endless. It’s freedom. A scary freedom, to be sure — but freedom it is.
In the CEB translation, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you.”
Wow. God is honoring Mary? Honoring her. That’s bold and big and beautiful. That puts a new perspective on the way I view God’s relationship with Mary. God honors her — gives her a responsibility that is new, frightening, and a job that can only be done by someone favored by God. Someone who is honored by God and honors God in return.
Here’s to a new Advent Season of honor.