Reclaim the sense of awe and wonder by reflecting on what is said, and not said, about Mary’s response in the Christmas story.
Since having children, the story of Jesus’ birth has become a different kind of real.
The experience of pregnancy and the expectant waiting can’t be understood without going through it. Couple that with the difficulty and work of labor, and the heart-stopping love and joy felt at first sight of a sweet baby. All of this along with the daily blessing of watching each child grow and develop gives new perspective of the beauty of God’s plan with Jesus.
Stepping into Mary’s Shoes
Now a mother, I find myself trying to step into Mary’s shoes as I read those familiar words again. I wonder how she was so obedient, so in agreement with God’s will. So much so, that when the angel told her she would have a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, Mary’s response was so simple, bold, and profound:
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”Luke 1:38 (ESV, emphasis added)
We are not told much about Mary before this occurrence. However, I seems reasonable to assume that she was God-fearing, humble, and willing to serve in any way God asked. Scripture doesn’t tell us about her life prior, so we have no idea what how God strengthened her faith and equipped her. Yet, she did. And that’s what God decided to share with us.
An Encounter With An Angel
And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.Luke 1:28-29 (ESV)
Can you imagine? An angel appears, obviously unexpectedly. An angel! Surely, the sheer shock of an angel appearing, and then speaking would have taken Mary’s breath away! Then, not only does an angel appear, but He calls her favored.
We are understandably told Mary’s response was initially ‘greatly troubled’ (Luke 1:29) by the angels presence and greeting, and this was BEFORE the angel gave her the message.
And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.Luke 1:30 (ESV, emphasis added)
There’s good reason why when angels appear to people in scripture that often their first words are, “Don’t be afraid”.It is terrifying to encounter a heavenly messenger of the Living God! What a relief these words must have been to Mary. And it reminds us of the loving-kindness of God who knows exactly what we need.
Certainly, the encounter, would have been perplexing, frightening, shocking, and wondrous all at once. And then the message.
A Perplexing Message
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 3He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”Luke 1:31-33 (ESV)
Whatever peace came over Mary from the angel telling her not to be afraid may have been fleeting. Certainly, these words must have been amazing, but equally terrifying. Mary, a betrothed virgin, was going to be a mother. She didn’t get to plan for it.
By the time my husband and I were ready to have our first child, we agreed we were ‘ready’. Of course, we believe each child is a miracle, and created intentionally by the hands of a loving, creative, and skillful God. We ultimately knew having a baby was up to God’s timing. But as a couple, we were not only open to having a baby, we were hoping and expecting it to happen. Even so, when that pregnancy test was positive, it was one of the most exciting and scary moments of our lives.
I cannot even begin to fathom how it would have felt if an angel had appeared, and then spoke such perplexing words. I can’t imagine being told while I was unmarried that I was going to become pregnant.
An Understandable Question
I appreciate that when told the impossible would happen, that her son would be God and that He would reign forever, that Mary asked a logical question.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”Luke 1:34 (ESV)
I love that God included these details for us. Mary, who becomes mother of Jesus, had questions too! Confronted with a seemingly impossible message, she uttered what we would all be thinking. How can this be?I love that God included these details for us. Mary, who becomes mother of Jesus, had questions too! Confronted with a seemingly impossible message, she uttered what we would all be thinking. How can this be? Click To Tweet
The angel did not chastise her for asking a question, instead, he gave her more information, helping her get to the point of obedience.
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”Luke 1:35-37 (ESV)
Did you catch all that?
By the Holy Spirit.
With God’s son.
Someone hold me.
Surely, greatly troubled is not broad enough of a term to accurately describe the immensity of the emotions and questions she must have experienced. If we can’t get our heads around it, how could she?
Mary was empowered by her faith and surely, God’s peace was poured out to her in its fullest measure.Mary was empowered by her faith and surely, God's peace was poured out to her in its fullest measure. #Bold #Faith #ThisGratefulMama Click To Tweet
Mary’s Bold Response
When the angel finished speaking, Mary responded boldly.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.Luke 1:38 (ESV)
When Mary responded, she couldn’t have known that Joseph would also be visited by an angel. She didn’t know that he, too, would be obedient and believe her, and the angel. Her willing submission showed she must have been faithfully serving and following God already because she was already open to God’s plan for her life. Mary’s faith allowed her to boldly trust God to work out all the impossible details.Mary's faith allowed her to boldly trust God to work out all the impossible details.#Bold #Faith #ThisGratefulMama Click To Tweet
Reading all of this, we must question our own faith and obedience. We should question our need to know all the details, and if the often, much-too-analytic-thinking part of our brains will be our detriment when God calls us to something bigger than we understand.
How Would You Respond?
How do you think you would repond?
Would you be like Zechariah who doubted and questioned the angel (Luke 1:18-25) when he was told that Elizabeth would have a baby? I see a lot of myself in his response. Zechariah was a priest and knew and served the Lord. Yet, his doubt is nothing to criticize. It was a moment of doubt, in a life of service to God.
Zechariah just wanted to know MORE, and like me, he wanted something concrete to grab onto. I see this tendency in myself, and maybe you do too. But who are we to think that God needs to prove Himself or share all the details of His plan with US?
While it is comforting that God still used Zechariah despite his moment of doubt, and how his family was blessed by John, it also serves as a warning. We need to be pray our hearts are ready to respond with the humble, bold faith of Mary.
Zechariah reminds us all that God has a purpose for you and for me. And any day, any moment, we could be called to serve Him in a way I don’t expect or understand. In fact, I think we can expect that we won’t understand it all, and that we will not know all the details.
God Knew Mary’s Heart
Mary’s response is surely why God chose her for this special job; He knew her heart. She could have chosen to reply in any way she wanted to.
Mary honored God as she chose to completely surrender her life to Him. She was open to His leading, and not so caught up with her worldly life that she couldn’t see past it. She wasn’t clenching all her plans with white knuckles, resisting change, like we often do.
It takes my breath away.
Her path of obedience was not easy, and one could argue it was certainly not logical. The social repercussions of an unwed pregnancy could have been life-ending, but she risked it all and trusted God to take care of her.
A Great Joy and Heavy Burden
She birthed Jesus.
Mary held our savior in her arms and loved Him as only a mother can, but also with the knowledge that He was a true miracle. A gift.
She then did her best to raise God’s own son.
Imagine the complex feelings and challenges of raising the son of God!
Parenting often leads me to see my own shortcomings. Does this happen to you too? Can you imagine the shortcomings that would become evident in you while parenting the one and only, perfect and sinless child? His perfection could only reveal our imperfection. And yet we know he was gracious, kind and gentle. I am sure He was all of these things with His mother.
Talk about true sanctification. I’m sure the process was often painful, and always humbling. And yet, she served the Lord, willingly.
As a result, she was blessed to be the His mother. She was close to the son of God before His ministry began. She knows all those details about Him and His life that the Bible does not record. Precious things. She knew of His true origin, and of the truth of His perfect and righteous character.
I have no doubt she knew He was without sin and marveled at His wisdom.
Can you imagine all SHE learned from Him?
A Worthy Example
Only God deserves our worship. However, Mary is certainly a worthy example of a woman of faith to emulate.
This Christmas season, may God increase our faith, and embolden us to follow His lead so we can be women of faith, like Mary.