“But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High...” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 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… For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:30-38 (some text omitted)
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The angel Gabriel came to Mary with a significant message which spoke to her divine purpose. This was no prophetic word that you smile and nod in response to and then store away for another season. This was the kind of message you simply could not ignore! There was a sense of weight and immediacy that Mary could feel from the moment the angel greeted her (Luke 1:29). It was a message that would change her life forever and alter the expected course of her future.
No doubt, as an engaged woman, Mary would have on many occasions imagined what her life would look like. Perhaps she had been so consumed by wedding planning that she hadn’t thought much further than her wedding night, on which her marriage would be consummated by an act she was yet to experience. Perhaps she had mapped a timeline for her life – marry Joseph, bear a child, begin an at-home ministry, bear another child... whatever Mary’s plans were, they were certainly derailed after this encounter!
As I read this account, as I often do at this time of year, I found myself admiring Mary for her response to a message that was sure to turn her life upside down. What faith! I can’t speak for anyone else but I am almost certain that if I were in Mary’s situation, I would not be as cool, calm and collected. Knowing me, I would stand there dumbfounded and shocked to the core, struggling to find the words to string together a response! That is why I am so grateful for the example that Mary sets for the rest of us when it comes to receiving a message from God, not matter how impossible it may seem.
There are a few things I observe from Mary’s response to the message delivered:
1. She wasn’t afraid to ask questions
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
Unlike Zechariah’s question in response to his angel visitation a mere few verses prior, Mary’s question is not fuelled by doubt but rather by wonder and awe. We can be quick to dismiss the option of asking questions when God speaks, for fear of it being equated with doubt or unbelief. Yet, I believe there is a difference between questioning God and asking Him questions in search for answers. In fact, asking God questions may be the very thing that strengthens our faith in Him, as we walk with Him on a journey of discovery.
2. Her response was marked by her identity
"I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. | Luke 1:38a
Before Mary gave her final response, she verbally identifies herself as “the Lord’s servant”, one who is distinguished as obedient and faithful to God. Mary’s response was driven by her devotion to God and her willingness to put aside her own will in favour of the will of God.
As humans, it tends to be in our nature to respond based on our emotions or present circumstance. Our logical mind prompts us to evaluate against our present reality, to weigh it up against the facts, then determine our response. However, as Christians, our identity as those chosen by God should be the position from which we respond to a word from God. We need to trust in God’s ability to chose, rather than question our ability to deliver. We are called to hold on to the truth that “no word from God will ever fail” (verse 37).
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3. She came into agreement with the word from God
“May your word to me be fulfilled.” | Luke 1:38b
Mary didn’t just accept the word, she made a declaration of her agreement. Despite how impossible it seemed – a virgin giving birth to a child – and the likely negative impact on her reputation, Mary aligned herself with a word from God. This was a bold declaration of faith. Faith coupled with the God of the impossible is a breeding ground for miracles!
It is because of Mary’s childlike faith, characterised by wonder, submission and agreement, that we can celebrate the birth of Jesus each Christmas.
I honour Mary and many others written about in the Word of God, for the part they have played in God's beautiful story of redemption, simply because they chose to have faith.
I pray that as you read the accounts in the Bible of those who came before us, that your faith will also be strengthened during this Christmas Season.