Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Faces of Christmas - Meet Mary

Part 1 in a series
By Brenda Black

Slip your feet into the tiny sandals of an innocent girl. Imagine the rush of emotions in a single moment when an other-earthly, larger-than-life being streaks across the universe and screeches to a halt directly in front of a shy teenager. Her historic and heavenly experience is recorded in the Book of Luke, chapter 1.

     “In the sixth month, 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 be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus...      “'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?'     “The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon 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...     “'I am the Lord's servant,' Mary answered. 'May it be to me as you have said.' Then the angel left her.” (Luke 1:26-38)
An angel speaks her name and Mary is forever changed. Scriptures reduce the encounter to a few descriptive words: greatly troubled, wondered, and afraid. Many more thoughts must have raced through her mind. The wonder of being in the presence of a celestial creature would be thrilling while terrifying. How about doubt along with her fear? Mary surely questioned whether her experience was a vision or reality.

She wondered at the possibility of her being the chosen one to carry the Messiah. She knew the sacred teachings. Every Jewish woman longed to be the favored one through whom the Savior would come. But as quickly as the rush of exhilaration for such a privileged calling filled her heart, Mary suddenly stopped to count the real cost of this supernatural encounter. She would become an instant outcast, branded as unfaithful, facing the penalty of stoning for her alleged adultery. And what of her beloved Joseph once he knew?

The Good News for all mankind came to Mary most certainly with mixed reviews. Terrifying. Terrific. Highly favored, yet fearfully alone. Still she accepted the responsibility with maturity beyond her youthful years. “I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Then Mary sang!

“My soul exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.” (Lk 1:46-48)

Twice, the angel Gabriel addressed Mary as the recipient of God's grace. In vs. 28 Mary is called “favored” indicating that she is the recipient of God's undeserved favor. Then in vs. 30, she is comforted with the words “you have found favor.”

Mary was set apart and “blessed” no matter what she may have been feeling or thinking. She was declared to be indwelt by God. Though she singly bore the Savior of the world, as a mere child herself, Mary never was alone for God was with her and in her. Somehow, the Lord of All must have loved little Mary out of worry and into peace.

We have that same miraculous promise. When we ask God to bless us or speak well of us, we are asking Him not merely to approve our plans but to interfere in our lives. We're inviting Him to shake up our universe, reach down from heaven and make a difference! God's words are God's actions. With the same magnificent, mystical force that God filled Mary, we can be filled and destined.

And how do we respond? Greatly troubled? Afraid? Wondering? Or do we sing a magnificent song of redemption and blessing? I want to SING. “For the Mighty One has done great things for me...” (Lk. 1:49a)

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