Since having children, the bible passages telling of Jesus’ birth have become a different kind of real.
The experience of pregnancy, the expectant waiting, the joy and heart-stopping love at their birth that took me by surprise – even with our second child, and the daily blessing of watching each child grow and develop gives new perspective of the beauty of God’s plan with Jesus.
As a mother, I find myself trying to step into Mary’s shoes. I find myself wondering how she was so obedient, so in agreement with God’s will for her that when the angel came and told her that she would have a son, conceived by the Holy Spirit, her 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 (The Holy Bible, ESV, emphasis added)
We are not told much about Mary before this occurrence, but I think it is reasonable to assume that she was God-fearing, humble, and willing to serve Him in any way He asked. I have no idea what life experiences and truths she had of God that made her this way. And yet, she did.
Lets be clear: the words spoken by the angel must have been amazing, but they must have also been equally terrifying. She, a virgin, was going to be a mother. She didn’t get to plan for it. I’m sure her heart was pounding, and the sheer shock of the angels presence would have done as much. But his message would have been perplexing, frightening, shocking, and wondrous all at once.
When my husband and I were ready to have our first child, we were in agreement that we were ‘ready’. We believe each child is a miracle, and created intentionally by the hands of a loving, creative, and skillful God. We ultimately knew it was up to God’s timing, but as a couple, we had entered a place in life where we were open to it, and were expecting it to happen. Even then, when that pregnancy test was positive, it was easily one of the most exciting and scary moments of my life.
I cannot even begin to fathom how it would have felt if an angel had, first of all, appeared (that alone is unfathomable to me), and then spoke such words. I can’t imagine being told while I was unmarried that I was going to become pregnant.
By the Holy Spirit.
With God’s son.
The words must have stolen her breath.
We are told she was ‘greatly troubled’ (Luke 1:29) by the angels presence and greeting – BEFORE even speaking about pregnancy. We don’t get a description of how those words left her.
And perhaps it is because there are no words to describe it.
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 I can’t get my head around it, how could she?
I can only believe she was empowered by her faith and that God’s peace was poured out to her in its fullest measure.
When she responded, she couldn’t have known that Joseph would also be visited by an angel and that he, too, would be obedient and believe her, and the angel. She was simply open to God’s plan for her life, and trusted He would work out the details.
Thinking of her, I find myself questioning my own faith and obedience. I question my need to know all the details, and if the often, much-too-analytic-thinking part of my brain would be my detriment.
I wonder if I would have been more like Zechariah who doubted and questioned the angel (Luke 1:18-25) when he was told that Elizabeth would have a baby. And let’s be clear: Zechariah was a priest and knew and served the Lord. His doubt is nothing to criticize. It was a moment of doubt, in a life of service to God.
He just wanted to know MORE, and like me, he wanted something concrete to grab onto. I see this tendency in myself. But who am I to think that God needs to prove Himself or share all the details of His plan with ME?
While it is comforting that God still used Zechariah despite his moment of doubt, blessing his family with John, it leaves me wanting to be sure my heart is ready to respond with the humble, bold faith of Mary.
Zechariah reminds me that God has a purpose for me, and that any day, any moment, I could be called to serve Him in a way I don’t expect or understand.
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.
She chose to completely surrender her life to God. She was open to His leading, and not so caught up with her worldly life that she couldn’t see past it.
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.
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 if you were parenting the perfect and sinless child? His perfection could only show 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?
While I do not believe that Mary is worthy of our worship, I certainly believe she presents a worthy example of a woman of faith to emulate.
This Christmas season, I’m looking to increase my faith and be willing to be bold and obey whatever He asks of ME.