by Allison Kunz

Categories: Youth Ministry

Henry Ossawa Tanner, The Annunciation, 1898.

The approach of a new year can be a time marked with hope, but it can also be a time of worry as we prepare to face the unknown. What do you expect the coming year will bring? What changes may take place that cannot be anticipated? Some of us will begin a new position, some will begin or end a relationship, some will embark on a new personal adventure, and all of us will choose how to respond to changes in our world which are outside our control. It’s inevitable that in some way each of us will face the unknown in the coming year.

When I think of facing the unknown in Scripture, I think of Mary. The painting above is my favorite piece of religious art. It is unique in its field compared to the gilded brightness of most religious pieces. However, it is the simplicity and humility of this particular piece which makes it stand out to me. Take a close look at the painting. Notice the simplicity of the furnishings and decorations. Observe the untidiness of the bed sheets and the plain colors of Mary’s robe. These things connect us to Mary and remind us that she was a simple young woman to who we can easily relate. Then, something happened.

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.'” Luke 1:30-33

How do you imagine Mary responded to this terrifying announcement? Notice her posture in the painting which emanates humility and respect directed toward the holy and mysterious light of the angel. As a young teenager I came to the startling realization that Mary was my age when she received this message. I doubted I could have responded with Mary’s respect and humility. Could you?

When Mary heard the angel, she trusted and obeyed God despite fears and reservations. I keep this image on my desk as a reminder to trust God and be open to God’s leading no matter how unqualified I may feel to contribute to God’s plan. Mary must have felt too young, too simple, too human to be a part of God’s greatest plan, but her trust in God led her to step forward into the unknown.

As you consider the new year, what unknowns are you facing? Where is God leading you? Will you choose to listen to and walk beside God into the unknown?