December 15, 2009

Mary’s Hope

Christmas is ten days away. For many, this is a hectic time of preparation, buying gifts, baking, and decorating. For others, it is a sad time, a reminder of losses and loneliness.

As I grew up, our family celebrated a secular Christmas. It was much simpler than the secular Christmas observed today. However, we did know this marked the birth of Jesus Christ. I didn’t know the importance of that event until I was well into my thirties and had become a Christian.

Today’s devotional talks about Mary and says, “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45). Mary was told she would have a child even though she was a virgin. This child would be a miracle from God.

As amazing as that is, the virgin birth is not the greatest miracle in the story of Christmas. The most astonishing thing is the identity of that child. This was no ordinary baby. God’s angel said that He was to be called Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

Every day I am astonished by this reality; God became a man! If I were God, would I choose to be born as a helpless baby? Would I pick two people to parent me that were not yet married to each other? Would I select a dirty stable as my birthing place? If I were God, would I come here at all?

I can scarce imagine the sensations that assaulted Him that hour of His birth. The smell would be most foreign. The One who is Light and sees all was born in the dark. The One who is Almighty and spoke the worlds into existence could not walk or talk. The One who was rich beyond compare became poor for our sakes.

Before it happened, the angel told Mary that she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son and call His name Jesus. The angel said that He would be great, and would be called the Son of the Highest. The Lord God would give Him the throne of His father David and He would reign over the house of Jacob forever. His kingdom would have no end. (Luke 1:31-33)

Mary was amazed and accepted her role in this astonishing event. As I read this today, I could see how God helped her by giving her an understanding of the ultimate goal. Had she focused on the days ahead, what might have happened? She had to explain to Joseph that she was pregnant and he was not the father. She had to endure the skeptics in her family. She had to travel a long way on a donkey during the last trimester. She would birth in a barn. She must endure the perplexities of raising a perfect child. (Think about that for a minute! What would the neighbors think?) Then she must watch that child become a man who could do miracles and raise the dead. Then she must watch Him arrested and crucified.

God didn’t tell her about all those things. He told her the end result; this was Emmanuel, and His kingdom would have no end.

As a mother who prays for her children, who sees them stray from God and who wonders about their choices, I am astonished at Mary. Did she lose focus as she watched her Son arrested? Did she lose hope when she saw Him die? I would have. I know that because I lose focus and get discouraged and forget the promises of God for me and for my children.

I’m not one to worship Mary. She was a good Jewish girl given a huge task by Almighty God and it was God who enabled her to do it. Yet she was humble and she believed God. She said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Mary gives me an example today. She accepted the will of God for her life and did not let the visible but temporary negatives destroy her hope in His ultimate goal. She clung to His promises for herself and for her child — and she was blessed because she “believed that there would be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

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