Christmas is a strange time of the year, often filled with various emotions. There is much that is lovely and hope filled, especially for believers. However, it can also be a time when the pain we feel from the loss of loved ones is heightened, or we may feel deflated that our hopes and dreams for the year haven’t happened. 2020 has been a difficult year for many of us and it has definitely been different to how any of us had planned. In today’s reading, Mary’s plans for her future were altered, but her willingness to trust God took her whole life in a direction she never expected.
The angel Gabriel made his second pregnancy announcement in Luke 1, this time to Mary. She was from Galilee in Nazareth and was engaged to a man named Joseph. Mary was likely to have been a teenager, going about her everyday life when suddenly an angel appeared and said, “Greetings, favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary was understandably troubled and afraid. The familiarity of this story sometimes causes us to overlook the enormous shock this would have been. Gabriel reassured her not to be afraid, calling her by name, and repeating that she had “found favor with God!”
Mary was told she would become pregnant with a son and she was to name Him Jesus. The Hebrew form of the name is Joshua – which means “Yahweh saves.” This meaning is significant; just as Joshua lead God’s people into the Promised Land, so Jesus would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21) and lead His people to their eternal promised land of the new creation.
Gabriel also told Mary that Jesus would be:
- Great. There is an interesting comparison here with the announcement of John’s birth where Gabriel said John would “be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15) whereas Jesus was simply described as great. There is no need to add to His greatness. He is great. He is God. John is a prophet, Jesus is Lord.
- The Son of the Most High. First century Jews used “Most High” out of reverence to avoid using God’s name. But in case of any doubt, Gabriel described Jesus as the Son of God.
- King. Jesus is from the line of David and will reign forever over the house of Jacob, God’s people!
- Holy. Set apart.
All of these descriptions were to let Mary (and us) know that her son was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesies. He is the Promised Rescuer. The Messiah is coming. Jesus will redeem His people. This truly is good news!
I love that Mary asked a practical question: how can this happen as I’ve not been intimate with a man? She realized there is an immediacy about Gabriel’s words, he didn’t mention her getting married first and then becoming pregnant. The answer given to her was that the glory of the Lord would do it. This reflects the nature of Jesus; He is fully God and fully man.
To help Mary see this was possible, her relative Elizabeth, considered too old and barren was already six months pregnant! The angel finished with the declaration “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
How would you have responded to this news? You are young, engaged, and your reputation is at stake! If I was Mary I would have been asking for a few more assurances. Instead Mary’s answered “Yes, I am a servant of the Lord; let this happen to me according to your word.” What an amazing reply. Her whole world had been turned upside down, all the plans she had for her future were in jeopardy. Even in her doubt, she reflected the words Jesus gave His disciples in the Lord’s prayer: “may your kingdom come, my your will be done” (Matthew 6:10).
Mary could respond with such faithfulness because of who she believed in. She knew God. She knew He was faithful, good, trustworthy, true, powerful, able, loving, merciful, and gracious. Mary found favor in God’s eyes, not because she was perfect, but because she was willing to be used for His plans and purposes. She trusted that God’s plans were better than her own. How willing are you to be obedient to God when He interrupts your plans? How willing are you to trust Him?
It wasn’t always easy for Mary. Much that happened was good, for example, the shepherds reports of the angel choir when Jesus was born, the wise men coming to worship Jesus, and witnessing Jesus’ first miracle. However, there was also a lot that was painful and difficult, like having to flee to Egypt, seeing Jesus rejected in His home town, and worst of all, watching Jesus die so horrifically on the cross.
Being obedient to God isn’t always easy, in fact it is often the more difficult path. What makes it possible is that God is with us! (See 2 Corinthians 12:8-10). While Mary had the blessing of Jesus physically with her, we have the blessing of the Holy Spirit with us. Are you willing to be obedient to God, even when it’s the more difficult path?
This Christmas season, may we all be amazed by Emmanuel – God with us – and be thankful, willing servants of our amazing God.
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