Christmas 2019 15. People – Mary
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
In the run up to Christmas it is inevitable that we begin to think about the characters involved in the original events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Where better to start than with Mary, to whom was given the great privilege and awesome responsibility of carrying and giving birth to God’s Son, the Messiah.
Mary was probably a teenager when she received the visit from the angel Gabriel to tell her that the Lord had chosen her for this very special purpose. Hearing his greeting she was greatly troubled. Meeting an angel isn’t exactly an everyday experience. But there was something deeper disturbing her peace of mind – the content of his greeting. ‘You who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ That set her on her guard. Whatever was coming next?
Gabriel sensed her fear and told her she need not be afraid. He was bringing good news not bad. The time had come for God to send his Son into the world; to be born as every human being has to be born so that, in due course, he would become the Saviour that the world needed. Hence the name Jesus, which means ‘God saves’. Just imagine the mounting excitement in Mary as he proceeded with his message. That was every godly Jewish woman’s dream; to be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.
It all sounds very cut-and-dried, ‘You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.’ Despite the way it sounds, God wasn’t forcing Mary into this role, but he knew her heart well enough to make this approach at this time. We get an insight into how she thought and felt about God in the song recorded by Luke in verses 46-55. She knew the Old Testament Scriptures well and used them as a basis for her outpouring of praise and thanksgiving. Mary was a spiritual woman; however young she might have been.
She loved God and wanted the best for his people, not a bad description of spirituality.
But – and life is full of buts – there was just one little practical problem. She was a virgin and, as Matthew’s account tells us, she was betrothed to be married to Joseph. Virginity up until the time of marriage was essential for a legitimate marriage in that society. That could be a huge problem for Mary; how could it be overcome? Conception would occur through the power of the Holy Spirit, said the angel, then, ‘Look what’s happened to your cousin Elizabeth; that’s a miracle for sure!’ Now for the punch line, ‘Nothing is impossible with God.’ Which takes us right back to the start, ‘The Lord is with you.’ That’s the key; God will take care of every detail, so don’t be afraid, however big the ask might be.
I can imagine Mary sinking to her knees or even prostrating herself on the floor in an act of worship, as she responded with the simple but whole-hearted words, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.’
Mary was unique, but the message for us is the same, ‘Nothing is impossible with God’. The Christmas story has been wrapped up in romance and fantasy in our commercial world, but we mustn’t let that blind us to the truth inside, that God is looking to us for a response of love and submission to his will, so that He can do great things in and through us. That’s not a cheap advertising slogan like so much that’s about at the moment. No, it’s more like a serious challenge to a costly commitment but, ‘He’s worth it!’
That is all for today! Come back tomorrow to see more in our Christmas series 2019, looking at Jesus Christ, the promised one of God.