In this Christmas season, there is much we can learn from looking at Mary’s encounter with the angel who told her that she would bear the Christ child. While Scripture does not deify Mary, she was unusually worthy of honor and respect. Everything about the angel’s visit to Mary confirmed her purity, humility, and devotion. She responded exactly the way a faithful servant should: In spite of any uncertainties she might have felt, she embraced the Lord’s will for her life. The fact that she was chosen for this awesome responsibility means that her devotion to God and the purity of her attitudes and behaviors are an example that we should study and emulate.
Quite simply, in an incredible and unprecedented situation of uncertainty and stress, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant . . . May it be to me as you have said.”
If we put ourselves in Mary’s place, what would our reaction have been? Joy? Uncertainty? Fear? Indecision? There are several issues that come to mind when we consider Mary’s encounter with the angel. What questions would we have asked? What objections might we have raised? What conditions might we have stipulated before agreeing to God’s plan?
God had the angel tell Mary what He was going to do. In addition, He explained how He was going to accomplish it. But to the amazement of the natural human mind, Mary did not ask why. Nor did she say, “Okay, Lord, I’m completely supportive of what You’re planning to do here, but there are one or two minor adjustments in the plan I’d like for You to consider before we finalize this arrangement. Like, first, how about if we just wait a few days until the ink is dry on the marriage license. Don’t You think it would really make things a lot simpler for everybody?”
Here we see how Mary’s right conception of God – and in turn her relationship to the Most High – comes to bear. Most of us would have had the temerity to demand that the all-wise God justify His plans to us, to demand that the Author of all that is good defend to our satisfaction the worth and validity of His intentions. Not Mary. She had a right understanding that God was the Good Creator and she was His creature. God had made her with the freedom to choose, and she chose to be the Lord’s servant.
Had we been there, and able to think as clearly as Mary in the terrifying, awesome presence of the angel, we would have wanted to know how to explain this to Joseph! We would have wanted to know how we were supposed to cope with the embarrassment of people believing that we had been impure. We would have asked how to deal with the scorn of the hometown folks who would be counting on their fingers when it became known that we were pregnant. We would have wanted to know what to do about our parents’ embarrassment.
With the benefit of hindsight, we know that God provided for the problem with Joseph by sending an angel. It is beautiful to think that the angel’s message to Joseph included the same instructions regarding the infant’s name as the angel’s instructions to Mary, so that when the two of them got around to discussing this matter, they would receive yet another confirmation that they were a part of God’s unfolding plan.
In hindsight, we also know that the scorn of the local town folk was not going to turn out to be the problem Mary might have expected. Through the means of Caesar Augustus’ decree that dictated that there be a census taken, God was going to get Mary and Joseph out of Nazareth and on to Bethlehem in time for the birth. After that, He was going to send them to Egypt to get them away from Herod’s murderous rampage. Everything would be done to completely fulfill all of the prophecies about Christ. By the time they returned to Nazareth, the length of time between their marriage and the date of Christ’s birth was no longer a relevant issue.
But we know all these things, of course, by looking back. They are not things Mary could have known when she was talking with the angel. From our perspective today, it seems remarkable to think that Mary, with her limited years of experience and without the advantage of hindsight, believed so completely in God that she knew without any doubt that He is totally reliable and that He could be trusted to work out all the details of His good plan – indeed, His perfect and astonishing plan.
In the first chapter of Luke, we find Mary’s song that describes her adoration of her God who is mighty and strong, holy and merciful, who cares for the needy and empowers the lowly, who is the Savior and Lord. The description of Mary in every specific indicates that she was a young woman who was willing to be used by God in any way He deemed best. She was pure in heart and bowed in reverence and obedience to God.
Mary serves to remind modern women that it is possible to put on the spirit of Christ, that God promises we can participate in His divine nature. We inevitably end up focusing our lives on some set of ideas or principles. The ultimate irony is that even those who think they are creating their own way, their own truth, their own life, experience the greatest bondage: addiction and enslavement to their own urges and the chaos that are the wages of sin and disobedience. Mary’s life shows us how much better it is to serve our Heavenly Father, who knows our frame and holds our best interest in His hands.
Faithfulness to Christ brings wonderful freedom in our lives – the freedom that comes from a pure heart. Because Mary’s attitude was one of willingness to serve, God could use her to do the miraculous. What could He do with us if we were willing to come before Him in humility to say, “Be it according to me as You wish, Lord?”
Excerpts taken from pages 237-257, The Strength of a Godly Woman, by Beverly LaHaye and Janice Crouse, available on the web at www.beverlylahayeinstitute.org or call 1-800-527-9600
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