“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 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. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He 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.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 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.” 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.”
“And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Mary, the blessed virgin mother of our beloved Jesus Christ. Mary, the pregnant virgin. That statement seems to be a complete oxymoron – pregnant and virgin cannot be used to describe the same woman. However, that is the supernatural reality of Mary’s life as we open Luke 1. These two passages from Luke give us our first glimpses into Mary’s life and her great calling. They show us a girl of great wisdom and humility. Mary was a young teenager, anywhere between 12-16 years of age, and yet her response to the angel’s news shows wisdom beyond her years. Let’s attempt to look at this scenario from Mary’s perspective.
Mary was a young virgin girl from a small town and modest family. A husband had been chosen for her, and they had begun the betrothal process. Then, one day out of the blue, an angel appeared to her. This would have been shocking on many levels. That an angel would speak, breaking the 400 years of silence from the Lord, would be amazing, but that he would actually appear to a woman was even more shocking! I think it’s quite amazing that Mary was holding a coherent conversation with Gabriel. I think I would have been a little tongue-tied. Anyways, once she listened in earnest to the news Gabriel brought, she had one simple question regarding the her obvious state of virginity. Gabriel gave her an answer that was only made possible by the Almighty God. Then, without hesitation, Mary submitted to the Lord’s will. She became a servant and fully trusted the words of the Lord from the mouth of Gabriel. And she didn’t just stop with submission. As we look further into the next passage during her visit with Elizabeth, Mary gives all praise and glory to the Lord. She couldn’t help but rejoice in Him. She praised Him for looking upon her humble state, and she praised Him for remembering His promises to Israel.
What can we learn from Mary?
- Complete Submission: Her simple, humble response, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me as you have said,” shows her full submission to God’s will. She does not question the Lord’s wisdom or sovereignty. She does not make excuses as to why she is unqualified for the task. She does not rattle on a list of fears or worries. She responds with trust. She doesn’t ask for more details. I think if I were in her shoes, my response would have been more like, “How can this be? What should I tell my parents? How should I tell Joseph? Did you tell him, too? Will the townspeople be informed as well so that they know I was pure throughout this process? When exactly will the Holy Spirit come upon me? How can I be sure this will happen? I don’t think I can handle this. I’m only 14 years old. Surely there is someone else more qualified.” And on, and on, and on. But Mary doesn’t question or doubt upon learning this news. She simply submits humbly and trusts completely. Also, we can look at her obedience through her pregnancy and delivery process. Can you imagine being nine months pregnant and taking a 100-mile donkey ride across mountain ranges and scorching deserts, traveling away from your mother and midwife, only to end up delivering your baby, the Son of God, in a stinky stable? And then after that, not returning home until a few years later in order to run from King Herod’s awful decree to kill the baby boys? What great faith and unwavering obedience she had, no matter what or how God brought about His plan in her life! I pray that we can be completely committed to God’s will with whatever He calls us to do!
- Powerful Faith: I think Mary’s simple, humble response of full submission reveals the level of her faith. Even though the angel’s words sound impossible (a virgin will conceive), Mary believes. Her childlike faith trusts in the angel’s words without question. I can recall countless times where I have questioned or doubted what I heard from the Lord. The reason my doubts and questions surface time and time again is because my focus is on myself or my situation, rather than on the Lord. Mary wasn’t focused on the seeming impossibility of the present scenario – the logistics of how a virgin would conceive, or on the unknown details of the hardships that would follow – how others would respond (and most likely judge her harshly). (Or even thinking years down the road about how she would be a parent to the Son of God! That seems intimidating, right?!) Rather, Mary focused on the Lord, as she stated, “I am the Lord’s servant.” The end. No questions, no doubts, just trust and submission and faith.
- Heartfelt Worship: Mary’s song is a song of heartfelt praise. Still, we see that her focus is on the Lord. It’s on His goodness, His blessings, and His faithfulness to her personally and to God’s people collectively. She recognizes that her son will be a blessing and a light to the nations. She recognizes that His coming will be the fulfillment of God’s promises to His people. And in that recognition, she magnifies and glorifies her Father God. The Lord has given her a high calling, responsibility, and burden, and her response is worship (not doubts, questions, fears, etc. but worship). How can this be her response in such an overwhelming situation? Simply through the fact that her focus was on the Lord, and not on herself. She understood that her purpose in life was to bring glory to the Lord. And even if she didn’t understand how or why, God had chosen her because He saw that it would bring glory to Himself. And so she submitted humbly and obediently and burst forth into worship! What a testimony and example to us!
This Christmas season, I hope we can look at Mary’s story as an example of how to respond to the Lord, no matter what He calls us to do. I pray that we can respond with submission, obedience, and trust when God calls us to do something. I pray that He can give us greater and deeper faith in Him daily, as He gives us the strength and desire to pursue Him wholeheartedly and focus on Him without distraction. And I pray that our lives will be lives of worship – not lives filled with doubt and defeat and distraction – but lives filled with powerful testimonies of the Lord’s work!