Advent and the Agency of Mary

Jamie Arpin-Ricci


Subscribe to the Junia Project Blog

Get content on biblical equality straight to your inbox. And get our free guide: 5 Pillars of Biblical Equality

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Mary annunciation-fra-angelico-convent-of-san-marco-florence-copy
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, Convent of San Marco, Florence

Few women in the Bible are more interesting, inspiring and the focus of devotion as Mary, mother of Jesus. With the Advent season upon us, she is receiving even more attention. Tomes of theology and vast collections of art have been created in her honor.

A Leading Role

When we consider the Christmas story, Mary comes a very close second to Jesus himself as a leading character, and with good reason. This brave young woman was the human vessel in which the God-made-flesh was conceived. It was from her own strong body that the body of Christ was birthed into the world. Indeed, blessed is she among women – among all people!

While we don’t know her precise age, it has long been assumed that she would have been in her early to mid-teens when the angel of God appeared to her. As the story goes, an angel of God appeared to this clearly mature and devout teenager, saying: “Greetings, you are favored so highly! The Lord is with you.”

Mary, clearly freaked out by this visit and what it might mean, is immediately uneasy. So the angel attempts to comfort her, “Wait, don’t freak out, Mary. God is super pleased with you. So pleased, in fact, that you’re going to become pregnant and give birth to a baby boy! When he’s born, call him Jesus. This kid is going to be very important, the Son of the Most High. God will even put him on the throne of David, to reign over your people forever. His kingdom will never end!”

“Hold on one sweet second there, angel,” Mary replied, “How is that even possible? I’m still a virgin.”

“The Spirit of God will come to you — that’s right, the very power of the Most High will come over you. The holy child will be called the Son of God!”

Mary’s Response

Mary answered the angel, saying:

“I am the servant of the Lord. Let it happen just as you say.”

Let’s stop here. It is critical that we do not miss the powerfully profound nature of Mary’s response. Read her reply again:

“I am the servant of the Lord. Let it happen just as you say.”

Do you see what happened there? Our over familiarity with the story can cause us miss it, but Mary did something astonishing. She chose to accept God’s plan. This might not sound like much of a new insight until we consider that, by indicating she freely accepted this great responsibility, we realize that she was free to refuse.

Mary could have declined being the mother of Jesus, the vessel through which the incarnation entered the world. Some will argue that God’s will is absolute, that Mary did not truly have the choice. But her agency in this moment is critical. In that moment after the angel informed her what would happen – in that momentary pause before she answered – she was free to choose.

Our Challenge

Not only is this a powerful example of God affirming and respecting the freedom of individuals – and not the least the agency women should have over their own bodies – it stands as an example for all of us. In the same way, as we live into the world as followers of Jesus, we are given the freedom to participate (or not) in the sacred work of embodying the love and service of Jesus in the world around us. God’s will for our lives will not just happen to us, it won’t be thrust upon us. Rather, God invites us to participate in His incredible (if, at times, costly) work of love in the world.

Further, and perhaps more importantly, it stands as an example to followers of Christ on how we are to represent God to the world around us. Too often our zeal and conviction lead us to represent our faith as though Jesus is a conquering king who will take His kingdom by force.

Yet, there are few stories better than the Christmas tale to remind us that Jesus, King of Kings though he is, chose to come with humility, vulnerability and self-sacrifice. He was heralded, not to world leaders, but to shepherds. He was honored, not by the religious leaders of his own people, but “pagan” wise men. Jesus, unquestionably the one person who could rightly demand submission and obedience, instead chose invitation.

And so, this Christmas season, how will we respond? What will it mean for us to say with Mary:

“I am the servant of the Lord. Let it happen just as you say”.


Originally published at Used with permission.

Jamie Arpin-Ricci

Women and the Bible

The Bible and the Undoing of Patriarchy

Beth Felker Jones

Editor’s Note: On January 25, 2022, we came across this remarkable Twitter thread summarizing the…

General, Women and the Bible

Power Dynamics Between Jesus and the Canaanite Woman in Matthew 15

Harriet Reed Congdon

In a reversal of pattern, it’s the Canaanite woman, not Jesus, who delivers the final

Subscribe for our free guide

5 Pillars of Biblical Equality

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


  • Women are the Life Givers.

    Once cells are vivified women choose during their 40 years of menstruation whether they will accept going to death’s door to birth new life. Women who chose to accept the angel’s message and become mothers for their lifetimes nurture, pray for and sacrifice for their children and families.

    To view women as merely the life bearers and to create policies and/or rhetoric that enforce that view is inhuman and against nature. Not every vivified plant, tree or flower fully grows to maturity in the soil of mother earth.

    We are in a living, thriving planet in which we all play a role in celebrating new life and consciously accepting the enormous responsibility of nurturing, educating and passing on universal laws taught by Jesus to the next generation.

    Like Mary, each women has the deep intuition to know when she is prepared body, mind and spirit to accept the precious gift from the Holy One of vivified cells.

    Every mother has walked in Mary’s sandals. What every mother prays for is that her children live long, generous, beautiful, creative, gracious lives and that they outlive their mother. Mary didn’t just say yes to putting her life on the line to birth Jesus she said yes to standing beside him for his lifetime and bearing the pain of all mothers in birth, life and death.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top