I am taking time this season to revisit the story of Christ’s birth, and the glory which surrounds it, in order that I might please Him better—that I might learn afresh and practice anew that which would honor our Redeemer most! There are a couple of wonderful phrases that are used in the gospels to describe Mary, the mother of Jesus. They captured my attention years ago and the Lord is using them to teach me once again the importance of my attitude and the power of meditation on His word!
Mary was human, no matter how divine you, or any other religion, try to make her. She was born in sin and she would have died in sin, if it had not been for the Savior. She was not “better” than any other woman although she is recorded to have been “highly favored” by God. She was an ordinary girl given an extra-ordinary task. But, she accepted it. Fully. Humbly. In Holy reverence to her Lord. This truth is so important if we are to gain any lessons from her life.
Mary has been given a place of honor in the Scriptures and we do wrong to make her sinless or dismiss her all together. We must speak well of this godly woman and glean from her most godly example! She has a lot to teach.
Mary was a chosen vessel. Chosen. She did not apply for the position after figuring that her specific spiritual gifts would lend her capable for the job. And we have no record that she desired to fulfill this role of prophecy personally. All we know is that this young lady was taken completely unaware by an angel named Gabriel—bearing an incredible message—and that his decree would change the course of Mary’s life in the most dramatic ways—forever. Effective immediately!
As I consider yet again what my reaction would have been to such a message I come up lacking. My humanness pushes forward all the time! The flesh is ever seeking to be satisfied and coddled in every way. Manipulation can have a bad habit of needling its way into any action I might take—making it fit according to my own likes and dislikes.
Mary didn’t seem bogged down with her fleshiness! She obviously had already been allowing the Lord to teach her what it means to say no to self. Mary did not respond in a submissive way because she herself had been conceived immaculate, but because she chose to respond in a submissive way! That is such a huge lesson! She, on purpose, possessed an attitude of acceptance—I can choose to do the same.
Mary was not naïve, nor was she too young to understand the statement that she would bear a child. This was proven by her one (and only) question: “How can this be?” But neither was she in rebellion to the answer. Yikes! I might have pushed for more details—“exactly what does overshadow mean?” She submitted herself to what God decreed and accepted fully the possibility of a miracle. What about all the other “natural” questions one might have continued asking, like, “Are you going to let anyone else in on this news?”, “Can I think about it and get back to you?”, “Could I get married first?”
Without any knowledge of what her fiancé might do, her family might say, or she might feel, Mary quickly uttered those incredible words, “Be it unto me, according to thy word” (Luke 1:38)—complete and full acceptance, no matter the cost.
The angel might have been a complete surprise and his message unfathomable…but the idea that God would speak—to her—was not! Indeed, Mary was expecting it, as would any servant whose soul duty was to her master! Mary’s quick and beautiful response gives us a clue as to where her eyes were fixed and where her faith was buried. “Behold…as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God” (Psalm 123:2). The secret to an attitude of acceptance lies in where we place our eyes.
Do we gaze at our Savior as if He might have something to say to us—something that has not yet crossed our minds? Once He speaks, do we focus our eyes on our own ability to “work it out” and how we might stay in the safety of our own comfort zone? For Mary, her gaze was definitely set on God—alone. Yes, I do believe Mary very likely shed the tears of many emotions and had intense times of prayer alone with her Maker—but they were not the product of unbelief. Any pain or fear that might have been present did not dictate her attitude in any way! That is the point the Holy Spirit seems to be driving home to my own heart. The fact that she was at His beck and call was already established in her mind! As her Lord, He would provide all that was needed. What was there to question or resist?
Her faith is astounding. She rests in full confidence of God’s word. “Be it unto me”—not according to any probability or possibility—but according to whatever God says, even if it does not make sense. God’s word was that powerful and that precious to her.
We find Mary a woman of action, not resignation! (Heavy sigh! “Okay, if I must!” Followed by another heavy sigh!) God never calls us to resignation but determined motion! Even the word rest is active—if it is commanded by the Almighty. Mary was not ashamed of her growing belly. Trust and obedience gives confidence to every step we are called to take. Leaving to visit her cousin Elizabeth, marrying Joseph, travelling to Bethlehem—these were all events that were open to spectators! She was eager to do that which she must—and in doing so, fulfill the prophecies! How tempting it is to “blend in,” or look inconspicuous, when we are called to do just the opposite!
Mary’s first act of obedience (submitted will) required continually walking in that obedience throughout her entire life.
Our attitude is vital as we walk out our own Christian experience. God comes to us daily with command, duty to perform, action for us to accept...and desires to find us in the same frame of reference as He found Mary—"behold the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38). We must, on purpose, possess such humility. Remember that Mary did not have previous knowledge she was "highly favored." God observes and takes note of those servants who are willing to be used of Him. It will require saying no to self—hard anytime of year—but especially during the holiday season. It will require submission. It will require complete obedience. But those requirements are easier to fulfill when we see ourselves as who we really are. Placing our eyes squarely on the Master each and every morning, "as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress" and expecting the Lord to speak—even the unfathomable!