Mary is a pivotal figure worth consideration this Christmas season. She stands at the crossroads between the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New. The channel for the old prophecies to be fulfilled, and the new salvation given-the womb that carried the Heaven’s prince, the woman who had faith enough to bring to term our liberator from death.
Can you fathom the immense amount of faith Mary was called to have? She was young. She was a virgin. She was probably expecting to lead an ordinary existence in the small town in Galilee. It’s hard to imagine being in Mary’s shoes when the angel first appeared to her. I haven’t met anyone who has seen an angel in today’s world. Have you?
Then, the message came from heaven in Luke 1:28-30: Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God!’
We can’t help but wonder what the angel may have looked and/or sounded like. Be honest, you would probably have been confused and disturbed too…this wasn’t just a normal, everyday occurrence.
To be visited by an angel would be a miracle in itself. But imagine hearing those words! The Lord is with you. This is true for all of us – The Lord is with YOU. Perhaps, the line would be better understood (in this situation) if it read, The Lord is with you, Mary. The God of the universe handpicked her. As with Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Ruth and David, God had chosen Mary to be His instrument, to do His work in this world. A high favor indeed!
As frightening as this event may have been for Mary, it must have been even more so to process what the angel had told her: that she would become pregnant even though she had never been intimate with a man. Oh the scandal! Everyone would talk about it, she could be shunned and even sent away by her fiancé, Joseph, because she had been unfaithful to him.
You will be with child, in a way that no other woman had been before or would be after her. A virgin, yet, with child. This concept is difficult for us to grasp. God did something utterly unique (not too hard for Him to do), but complicated enough that we can’t understand it. Is it too hard for the Creator of the universe to cause a woman to have, but an act of creation, a complete zygote that would become and embryo, which would become a fetus, which would become a newborn baby?
Who can make up such rules for God? We tend to put Him in this box, limiting Him to what our minds can understand.
Yet, faced with numerous fears and questions, Mary responded to the angel in a way most of us wouldn’t. I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true. She was saying: God, I’m yours. You can do anything you want with me. She must have known the situation would be very hard for not just her, but for Joseph and her entire family. But, she had faith enough to let God take care of her; to let Him meet her needs while the prophecy was fulfilled through her.
It’s easy for us to be thankful for the good things that happen in our own lives, but when difficulty/tragedy strikes, we don’t see them as integral parts of God’s good plan for our lives…His divine plan for all. Mary’s example proves that we can also welcome those things, confident that His gifts can sometimes come in perplexing and painful packages. We belong to God and in knowing that, He will use whatever He allows into our lives for good. In God’s hands, those things become gifts of His grace towards us.
It takes faith; faith to rest in who God is – faith to let His love wash over us – faith to be confident that He is doing something good in and through all of our circumstances, both the good and the bad. It takes faith to see the hard things in our lives as gifts of God’s grace.
Mary was asked to believe something that many of us struggle to even imagine. From that frightful day when she was face to face with a strange messenger, to the cold night in the stable, to the mournful day her son was mounted on a cross-Mary’s entire life witnessed and nurtured Jesus’ message. Stop and ask yourself: If Mary were here today, how would she celebrate Christmas?
When you find yourself lost or in despair, know that you have the same capacity for the extraordinary faith that Mary did. She was human, as you and I are. Ask yourself, how might I fortify my faith every day? Who else inspires me with their extraordinary faith?
Will I be prepared when a time comes for me to have great faith?
Will you claim to be His servant today?