A Christmas Thought

23 12 2017

From Luke 1:26-45

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor 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. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“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. 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. 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.

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

No doubt that these are familiar verses, and this is a familiar story.  I don’t have any unique perspective, or a new discovery that I’m sharing here.  I’m just sharing a thought that I had in reviewing the story of Jesus.

Ministers have often talked about how scared Mary must have been to be pregnant out of wedlock.  I’ve heard every Christmas season, something about how Mary had a lot to lose by proclaiming the Birth of Jesus Christ, which was in her.  I’ve sat there in the pew and listened to someone preach about how practical Mary is in her response to the news that she’s pregnant.  They love to talk about her around Christmas, because hers is a Christmas message.  And it is a Christmas message.  It’s the Christmas message!  But I see some proclamations here that I would love to share with you, proclamations that I believe have both significance for Mary, but significance for each of us as well.

  1.  The Proclamation to Mary
    1. “You are Highly Favored!”
      I was thinking about it earlier this week, and I was wondering what qualified Mary?  Like what was special about her?  I don’t have much about her life prior to Jesus, so I looked at other times where she was mentioned.  The popular Christmas carol, “Mary Did You Know?” repeatedly asks if she knew the details of Jesus’ life and Jesus’ fate.  (Which, according to scripture, yes, she knew that Jesus was going to be the savior of the world, but that’s another subject for another day.)  Anywho, as we read the story of Jesus, it’s the story of his mother as well.  They say that children are a reflection of their parents and their influence in their lives.  If this is true of Jesus, then Mary raised Jesus to be an upstanding person.  Yes, he was God, but I’m also sure that Mary had to teach him things as well.  And in the final days of Jesus, I know that Mary was filled with dread, because she understood his warnings, because the angel told her that he would be the savior of the world.  I think that when Jesus was just conceived, when she heard the words “you are highly favored” I think that she tried to remember everything that was happening, so she’d never forget.  No doubt that she had been viewed by God to be someone who was trying their best to follow his commandments.  This means that she was growing in her relationship with God.  She was in the temple, worshiping.  She was obedient to the call of God, and God could see fruit in her life.  She didn’t become spiritual just because she was Mary, the mother of Jesus.  She was spiritual because she was Mary, the child of God.
    2. We are Highly Favored
      Just as Mary was highly favored by God, if we are doing the things that we need to do, if we are growing in our walk with God and if we are producing the spiritual fruits that we need to produce because God is moving through us, then we are also highly favored!  God used Mary to produce the son of God and to support his ministry.  And God can use us to produce fruits and live a life of ministry.
  2. The Proclamation of Mary
    1. “I am the Lord’s servant”
      Her first response was a practical response, of how she could be pregnant but never have gotten it on?  Her second was her acceptance of God’s will for her life….and she knew that her life was not her own.  She knew that the purpose of her life was to serve God.  She accepted God’s plan as her plan, and didn’t fight it.  There was really nothing to fight, she was already preggers and she couldn’t do anything about that!  She accepted this, without protest, without responding like a four year old.  She just accepted what God said on faith, and let him figure out the rest of the details.  No doubt, she had worries that she could have said and shared, worries of Joseph and her relationship to him.  Worries of social graces and being cast out of her society.  Worries of where she would go and live, what would happen.  Worries of how she would deal with her baby boy being crucified.  But she accepted them all, and knew that God would take care of her in his own way.
    2. We are the Lord’s servant
      I could stand to learn a few things from Mary.  I could take from her story, the importance of staying faithful to God, no matter what his plan is.  I could also learn my place as well.  I could learn that my life is not my own, and I must accept the plan of God for my life, regardless of what I think or feel about it.  Hopefully I will learn a few things from Mary.  Because ultimately, she immediately accepted the plan that God had for her baby to be the savior of the world, and she obeyed throughout the years.  She was there at each event, she was there when he died.  And she was there when he was resurrected.  When I think about how she could have gone through all of that, I arrive at Mary’s unwavering faith in God.  I arrive at her faithfulness.  When others look at my life, and they wonder how I did it all, I hope that people think of God, and see the power of God in my life.  I hope that they see how God was faithful and how He used me.  I hope that they see God is in me and lives through me.  I hope they see love.

As you go into the Christmas season, may you ponder the words and meaning of Christmas, and may you and yours find lots of love to share!


Martha and Mary

23 11 2014

I have been MIA in this blog lately, but I wanted to share with you something that I’ve been taught very recently.  I don’t think I have many words to say on this subject, but I digress.

I don’t have the scripture references, so forgive me for that.

I am currently working through a chronological study of the life and ministry of Jesus.  The first time that we encounter Martha and Mary, they were opening up their home to Jesus, hosting him as he was teaching.  Mary sat at his feet, listening to his teachings.  Martha busied herself with the chores that needed to be done, so that she could be a good hostess.  Martha got exasperated with Mary, and tried to get the Lord to tell Mary to get up and get things done.  And Jesus essentially told Martha to leave Mary alone, she was doing some important stuff.

Then, we fast-forward to the death of Lazarus.  Jesus hears Lazarus is sick, and instead of leaving immediately, he waits around for a few days.  And then begins the journey.  Well, Lazarus dies.  When Martha realizes that Jesus is coming, she immediately gets up, and goes out to meet with Jesus.  And she tells him that she believes that Jesus is the Christ.  A little while later, Mary leaves the house to go meet Jesus, followed by all of the other mourners. And you know the rest of the story from there…Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and he goes and walks out…yada yada yada.

I mean no disrespect for the miracle, but that is not the focus I want to make on this post.  But I’d rather focus on the two women.  First, the fact that these women are mentioned in the scriptures, and respected by Jesus, tells us a significant amount about how much Jesus loved and respected these women, and thus, so did the disciples and the writers of these gospels.  Feminism and all that jazz.

But really, Mary and Martha have been the focus of several discussions and books.  And so often, I’ve heard the preachers use the first story to encourage us to take the time to listen to God and not be so busy with the rest of the activities of the world.  I get that, I do.  I’m not saying that activity is not useful or appropriate.  We are so busy to condemn Martha for not taking the time out, but we forget the second part of the story, the follow-up to that story in their lives.

If we look at these two stories, we see that there is more to Martha than just that initial story.  When she hears about Jesus, she runs and meets him, immediately, no questions asked.  Maybe the reason that she’s so impatient with Mary in story #1 is because she knows who he is and what he is and wants everything to be perfect for Jesus.  Maybe she wants to provide an opportunity for other people to hear Jesus’ message, that she busies herself for those people and is concentrating on being a good hostess.  She already knows who Jesus is, she demonstrates that later in story #2.  She knows the value of Jesus and his power already, she demonstrates that in story 2.  She follows Jesus with her head, logically and rationally.

Just as we see there is more to Mary than just story 1, and we love to paint her as the better Christian.  We see the trend of her being emotionally pulled and tied to Jesus.  It is her emotions, and not her head, that tie her to pursue Jesus.  She’s kneeling at his feet.  She’s mourning, and when she hears Jesus is coming near, she does not go to him immediately.  She probably wants him to come to her…but when he doesn’t do so fast enough, (I suppose!) she goes to meet him.  She allows her emotions to control her approach to Jesus.

The problem of being Martha to the extreme, is that your heart is never touched.  But being Mary to the extreme, and you always chase after emotional experiences, and the routine is not enough.  I think we are so easy to put Mary on a pedestal, but recognize that Jesus does not devalue Martha in story 1.  He simply tells her that her value is misplaced.  At that moment, he tells her that her efforts to please him and be perfect for him, it doesn’t matter anymore.  Later, he talks to her privately and comforts her.  When we put Mary on a pedestal, we neglect to recognize that she hesitates before heading to Jesus, and those emotions hold her back from experiencing Jesus’ comfort over the death of her brother.

We learn a lesson from both of these women.  Both approaches are valued, and both have their flaws.