Before people scream “heresy” or “blasphemy” I would ask you to consider the plain and simple truth that Mary was the mother of God, even if she did not fully understand that to be the case. As a Protestant I do not believe that Mary should hold some elevated status. She was a simple and frail human being just like the rest of us. I think that there are some within the Christian family that have gone too far in seeking to praise Mary for her role in the Christmas story. However, I do believe that those of us on the other side of the family do not go far enough in recognizing the remarkable fact that Mary was the one chosen for this sacred task.
I have often asked the question to myself, “why did God choose Mary?” I will admit that we will never fully know why God chose Mary. That isn’t for us to know. But, we can get a sense of what God was thinking based on the way Mary interacted with the angel Gabriel. The Bible provides for us a clear and concise depiction of Mary and her response to what God was placing upon her young shoulders. There are two characteristics I believe highlight God’s choice of Mary. These two attributes are seen in Mary’s response to the message brought by the Angel of God.
35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be borne will be called holy—the Son of God. … 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
The angel Gabriel comes to inform Mary of God’s plan. He tells her that she is going to bear a son even though she is a virgin. There are any number of responses that Mary could have given.
“I don’t think so!”
“Don’t I get a say in all of this?”
“I have my life all planned out and this is going to ruin everything!!”
The general sentiment of these responses are negative and reflect my tendency to resent inconvenience. Mary, however, did not respond in this way. The first characteristic Mary demonstrated was humility. She hears the words, understands the message and then submits to God’s plan. “I am the servant of the Lord.” She doesn’t try to talk her way out of it. She seeks clarification, to be sure, but she doesn’t run away. It is interesting that we have a young woman who is wise to the ways of life. She knew and understood the biological realities of childbirth. She knew the message from the angel implied an immediate action in her life, but the time of consummating her marriage had not arrived. To accept what doesn’t at the time make sense is a remarkable level of faith. Mary seemed to possess this ability to hear from God and live within what was offered. Mary could have responded in a hundred different ways. We can imagine many of them, but Mary choice the path of faith.
I have come to realize that faith does not always need an explanation at the moment of decision. Mary understood this to be true. Could this be the reason the scriptures tell us Mary “hid these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19). I would say, “Yes.” Mary was a humble servant of God. This characteristics was important to God. The mother of His eternal Son needed to be humble and lowly.
The second characteristic that Mary demonstrated in this short exchange was acceptance. The second half of Mary’s response was, “let it be to me according to your word.” I wonder if Mary related this story to Jesus as he grew up? I wonder if there was any memory of this in Jesus’ mind as he uttered his own words of acceptance, some thirty years later in the Garden of Gethsemane? I wonder if this willingness to accept her place and role in God’s plan came easy or if she struggled to live into what God was calling Mary to?
I know that these questions will never be answered. I suspect that some of these are completely off-base, but I can’t help wondering as I wander through my own journey of faith. I desire to be more accepting in my life. God is looking for men and women who understand that they have a place and a responsibility in God’s ultimate purposes.
As we continue this march toward Christmas day I am asking myself two questions. First, are there areas in my life where I have pride and not the kind of humility that pleases God? I desire to replace my desires with those of God. The only way that this will happen is by increasing my humility. And, the only way I know how to do that is by removing any pride in my heart and replacing it with the love of God.
The second question I want to ask myself is this: What is God asking me to accept about his plan and purpose that I have been unwilling to acknowledge as coming from Him? Many times we know there needs to be something done, but we fail to attribute it to God’s activity in our lives. This can be both intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, our calling is to come to a place of acceptance.
Acceptance is all about trust. Do we trust God to fulfill his promises and to guide us through what he lays out in front of us? To get to this point we need a clear view of God’s character and nature. A view that only comes from God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s testimony in our hearts.
I don’t know where you are. What I do know is we all still have a long way to go. Learn these lessons from Mary’s life and you will see the miracle of God’s presence manifest itself in your life. I pray that I grow in my humility and acceptance. My prayer for you as that you desire the same.