Luke chapter 1 presents to us the juxtaposition of Zechariah and Mary. Both had received an angelic revelation and message. Both had encountered the Divine as they were going about their ordinary activity – It was Zechariah’s turn for temple duties, and Mary was going about her every day. Yet the response that each person gave differed. Zechariah doubted despite his years of formation and his vast learning as a priest, and asked for a sign, “How shall I know this?” (Luke 1: 18), while Mary was perplexed at how her conception would take place given that she did not have a husband, she believed that the words that she had received would come to fruition. Thus the opening chapter of Luke presents with two possible responses that we ourselves might take with regard to God’s call for us in our lives: Scepticism or Faith.

The mystery of the Incarnation is a fitting meditation for us as we enter into the season of Advent. In the encounter of the Annunciation, the name of God is revealed as “Jesus”. In Hebrew, this translates to “the Lord (YHWH) saves”. Christ’s identity has been revealed as with His mission. Jesus has come into the world to redeem this fallen world and to restore the fullness of the relationship we have with God our Father.

The interaction of Gabriel and Mary is rich in theology: we are reminded that “With God, nothing will be impossible.” (Luke 1:37). God works in ways that are beyond human comprehension. He who made time is not bound by time, nor is he bound by Physics, or Logic. Gabriel also makes reference to the Holy Trinity – “The Holy Spirit will come over you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) The use of the Greek word, episkiasei, for the word “overshadow” bears testimony to the unity of Scripture. It is the same word used in the Septuagint to describe how God filled the Tabernacle and established His presence in the land (cf. Exodus 40:35). This term is repeated at the encounter of the Transfiguration, another Theophany (cf. Luke 9:34), and excitingly, when Peter’s healing shadow is described (cf. Acts 5:15). Revealing to us that it is the same God who is working these miracles.

As the tabernacle in the Old Testament once carried the presence of God and signified his dwelling her on Earth, Mary is now the new Ark of the Covenant who bears in herself, the Incarnated Son of God (CCC 523, 717, 2676).

Some thoughts about Luke chapter 1:

  • There is an invitation towards interior silence modelled upon the inner ponderings of Mary. Zechariah’s rational mind had kicked in, and as he verbalised his thoughts trying to find empirical and irrefutable proof, he was gifted the gift of silence, so that he could allow God to speak to him.
  • The Call of God is revealed in the ordinary. Zechariah and Mary were simply going about their business, when God visited them and revealed His amazing plans, and how they were to be a part of these plans – they were gifted their vocation. They were not in some special place, they were not on pilgrimage, they were not on retreat, they were just living out what they would do on an ordinary day.
  • The journey of Advent is as much about unpacking and leaving behind our limitations, old beliefs of God, as it is about embracing the surprising ways that God speaks and ministers to us.
  • The workings of God are not dependent upon the thoughts and utterances of human beings. Zechariah doubted, but that did not thwart the plan of God from unfolding. Things however become easier and less painful when we cooperate with the Grace of God as Mary did, rather than resist the Grace of God as Zechariah did.

While the first chapter of Luke begins with a call to silence, the chapter concludes with 2 glorious exultations of the Glory of God – Mary’s Magnificat, and Zechariah’s Benedictus. When they praised, it was a reflection that what they had encounter was real for them. When we truly encounter God, our lives are forever changed. We cannot return to the old ways anymore. Advent is a time of praise as much as it is an inward journey of contemplation and growth. We are invited to rejoice in the amazing things that God has done for us, and to glorify Him in all things. We are so eager to run ahead to the exultation, but this exaltation is empty, if we did not first undertake the journey of Silence and Realisation.

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Didache Commentary. (2016). The Didache Bible (4th Printing). Ignatius Press.  Pp. 1352 – 1353

Cathechism of the Catholic Church. (1996). Cathechism of the Catholic Church. Libreria Editrice Vaticana.