Read Luke 1:39-55
Oh how we love the Christmas story. The angel coming to Mary with unbelievable news, a very understanding husband, and a relative named Elizabeth who would conceive in her old age make for a story worth telling again and again.
We long to hear the part of no room at the inn and a babe born in a manger. Angels and Shepherds and heavenly host proclaim and are witness to the birth of a Savior. A most unique star would later bring wise men—kings themselves—from the east. They came bearing gifts and departed without checking in with the regional authority so this child who was the Word made flesh would not be endangered by those that would reject any heavenly kingdom.
What a fantastic set of circumstances!
What a unique way for God to dwell among men—to live in human form.
What a special story Luke tells. We love to hear it again and again.
But sometimes we forget there is more to the story. God would work through Mary to bring Jesus the Messiah into the world.
But just who was Mary?
· A young girl by today’s standards, but ready for marriage in her time.
· Engaged to a working class man.
· Probably someone of little education. In her time, education was for men. Women learned the ways of the home and the market and of bringing up children. She would have known of Abraham and Moses, but probably only knew the day-to-day parts of the law. The men of the world kept up with sin and sacrifices and atonement. She probably knew that a Messiah was promised but was not privy to reading the scriptures that said he would come.
· She was the recipient of an angelic visitor with fantastic news.
· Betrothed to Joseph, she was now a part of the royal lineage of David.
· She was chosen by God to bring the Messiah into the world.
· She was blessed among women.
As a very young child, we would not think that Mary would have dreamed she would be the vessel by which the salvation of the world would arrive.
Even at 14 or 15, the events that transpired would have been overwhelming. For some they would have been debilitating. For others this special selection would have evoked a huge case of self-righteousness. Some might even have schemed to use such position for personal advantage.
But Mary was humble. Her thoughts were of God’s glory. Her assessment of the situation was of the magnificent nature of what God would do through her.
She expressed understanding that all history would consider her blessed. She was not ignorant of that which would transpire; but her disposition was one of acceptance and thankfulness and readiness to serve her God in whatever way he required.
And she knew enough of the law and the prophets to know what would happen would be for all of Israel. She likely did not know that the child she would bear would bring salvation to the entire world. Bearing a Savior for Israel was a big enough task in itself.
But in the middle of what today we call Mary’s Song come the words for the Mighty One has done great things for me.
Maybe she thinks that she will be ushered off into a palace.
Maybe she thinks that with the Son of God, she will skip the pains of childbirth.
Maybe she thinks she will be exempt from the routine matters of the world, such as registering for a census.
Maybe she will be transplanted from her life among the working class to a royal life with servants and maids to attend her.
Or—maybe she understands that she will carry a child for 9 months just like every other mother.
And maybe she understands that Joseph isn’t going to be too happy about her carrying someone elses child.
And maybe she knows that she will have pain in childbirth just like all of the other girls.
And maybe she knows that some people will probably scorn her or alienate her.
She surely knows that most of her friends are not going to buy this conceived by the Holy Spirit stuff.
Perhaps there are thoughts of not being a good enough mother.
Perhaps there are thoughts of her child’s safety.
Parenting is tough enough with a normal kid; throw in the Son of God factor, and this all may have seemed overwhelming.
Surely she did not comprehend that the child she would bear would suffer an excruciating death on a cross. Would that not be cause to plead with the angel to seek another, much stronger woman.
Maybe, she had a very realistic picture of what was ahead.
Maybe, she only knew what she needed to know.
But her response to what God would do was that God has done mighty things for me. This is the response of a faithful servant. This is a response of a trusting servant. This is the response of a willing servant.
God said it would be so. It is so.
God said it would happen. It has happened.
And Mary went on to say,” Holy is his name.”
Holy is his name!
Holy is his name!
This is from a young girl with limited education and plans of her own. Her future was most certainly in the husband she was promised to and his skills and hard work that would make a life for them.
Bringing the Messiah into this world was surely not on her “to do” list for that day. But she accepted the call given her and considered herself blessed. She did not think that she was doing something for God. It was he who was bringing her a gift.
· A gift that would mean a quiet wedding with no real honeymoon.
· A gift that involved carrying extra weight.
· A gift that would mean losing her girlish figure.
· A gift that would mean middle of the night nursing
· A gift that would mean far less sleep than she had ever known in her life.
· A gift that would cause uneasiness between her husband and her.
· A gift that would require her to think more about daily decisions that she could have imagined.
It seemed that Mary would be the one doing most of the work but she considered herself to be blessed and proclaimed God’s holiness. She would bring the words of Isaiah to life in this world.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
We know that Mary was special.
God chose her for this most special task. She is blessed among women. She is forever a part of the Christmas Story. She is critical to counter those who would deny the humanity of Jesus for he was truly born of a woman. But she is not just a woman, but a woman born under the law—the very law which Jesus would fulfill and liberate all humankind from. She was a Hebrew. Her child would be raised according to God’s law.
Scholars spent decades and centuries studying the significance of Mary in the whole of our theology. But for this time let us consider that her attitude was that she considered all that God was calling her to do as something God was doing for her.
She is saying, God’s gift to me is the thing he has called me to do.
We know that our salvation is a gift.
We know that peace that goes beyond understanding is a gift.
We consider our talents and abilities as gifts.
Many have realized their Spiritual Gifts.
But we should learn from Mary that the very things that God calls us to do are also gifts.
The mission or purpose given us is a gift.
The challenge set before us is a gift.
Consider the movie, Patton. There is a scene late in the film when George C. Scott playing the general officer who has been relieved of his command and is being used as a decoy explodes with a mini soliloquy.
The last great opportunity of a lifetime – an entire world at war, and I’m left out of it?
Patton felt that his God-given purpose was to command an army in combat. The worst thing that anyone could do to him was to leave him out of it. It was not to be shot, or to step on a mine, or to walk into an ambush. It was to be left out of the very thing for which he lived.
Consider the great basketball coach, John Wooden. Wooden never argued with his players. He didn’t need to raise his voice. The bench was his leverage with young, headstrong players. The bench was hell on earth. The basketball game played out before them, and a player that would not listen or heed Wooden’s coaching was left out of it.
We are commissioned to bring good new to the world.
We are to be God’s love in this world.
We are to be God’s light in this world.
We are to be God’s hands and feet, arms and legs in this world. We are the Body of Christ.
The tasks that fall to us are not burdens. They are gifts. They are gifts from God.
The people we encounter, the daily circumstances of our lives, and even the very things that we would consider disruptions are a gift from God.
God is saying, “OK, you’re in. You are in the game. Get in there. Show me your stuff.”
We get to play.
We are on the court—on the playing field.
When I was a senior in High School I was able to be a teacher’s aide for an hour one semester. For most people that meant hanging out in the office and running errands. For me, it was to be an assistant junior high football coach.
Now you might think that this wasn’t a brilliant decision. The other kids that had enough credits to swing a teacher’s aide position ended up in the office or front desk between 9:00 am and 3:00 p.m., but I was required on the practice field at 6:00 a.m. for my duties.
But to stand around in the office waiting to run an errand would have been torture for me. To coach other kids and call it school was to be in the game at 6:00 in the morning.
Then came the actual game. There was this one kid that was gangly and generally uncoordinated. I would work with him in practice on rushing the passer. He couldn’t overpower anyone, but we worked on getting past his blocker and to the quarterback.
The coach was not especially impressed with this kid. He would never be first string. So every once in a while, I would put him in when I thought the other team would try to pass. At the end of the next play, the coach would look over at me at shout, “Who put him in?”
This was a rhetorical question as the coach didn’t have any other assistants. And he would have never noticed that he was in the game except for the fact that he had tackled the quarterback for a 6 or 7 yard loss.
The player I had pulled out for that single play could hardly wait to get back in and the kid that got to play that one down would come running off the field with a huge smile on his face.
It’s all about being in the game.
Life isn’t about seeing how little we can be involved with difficult people and trying situations. The lesson from Mary tells us that we should be praising God—Holy is the Lord—Holy is his name—every time he puts us in the game.
There are surely times for rest.
There is time to be alone.
There is a time just to be still and experience God’s presence.
And there are times to be in the game–to be thankful that we get to play. We should be thankful that God doesn’t just leave us on the sidelines or on the bench.
We have plenty of examples where biblical figures don’t want to get in the game. Jeremiah was not all that enthused about the prophetic work God had given him. Moses didn’t feel qualified and Jonah sure didn’t want the job that God gave him so he tried to run away.
We understand that God has done everything for us. Our life comes from him. Our second birth comes from him. Our forgiveness comes from him. Salvation, eternity, and fullness of life come from God.
But God also says to us, “Do you want to get in the game?”
God reminds us that he loves us and always will. He assures us of the everlasting nature of his love. We are his children. We are heirs. We are brothers and sisters with Christ Jesus. We should be the most secure people on the planet, and God says to us, “Do you want to learn the family business? Do you want to learn the business of love?”
He asks us, “Do you want to be a part of something really big?’
In the events and circumstances and people of our lives, God asks, “Do you want to do what I have made you and have chosen you to do?”
Mary knew the answer to this question and that answer was Yes and Thank You!
Her calling was unique and a once in the history of history sort of calling, but we too have a God given purpose. It involves bringing the Son of God into the world, not in the way that Mary did, but in the way we are commanded.
Jesus told his disciples that he was giving them a new command. He told them that as he loved them, they should love one another.
Jesus raised the bar a little bit from love your neighbor as yourself. The love of Jesus went well beyond that. It reached out to giving himself and his life in the flesh as a gift to us and even to his death—a death on a cross.
Jesus is telling us to bring him into the lives of everyone on the planet. Bring the good news. Bring love. Bring light. Bring abundant life to the world.
And our response should be that God has done great things for us. He is putting us in the game.
Holy is his name.
Holy is his name.
Holy is his name.