There was a sense of weight and immediacy that Mary could feel from the moment the angel greeted her (Luke 1:29). It was a message that would change her life forever and alter the expected course of her future.
No doubt, as an engaged woman, Mary would have on many occasions imagined what her life would look like. Perhaps she had been so consumed by wedding planning that she hadn’t thought much further than her wedding night, on which her marriage would be consummated by an act she was yet to experience. Perhaps she had mapped a timeline for her life – marry Joseph, bear a child, begin an at-home ministry, bear another child… whatever Mary’s plans were, they were certainly derailed after this encounter!
As I read this account, as I often do at this time of year, I found myself admiring Mary for her response to a message that was sure to turn her life upside down. What faith! I can’t speak for anyone else but I am almost certain that if I were in Mary’s situation, I would not be as cool, calm and collected. Knowing me, I would stand there dumbfounded and shocked to the core, struggling to find the words to string together a response! That is why I am so grateful for the example that Mary sets for the rest of us when it comes to receiving a message from God, not matter how impossible it may seem.
There are a few things I observe from Mary’s response to the message delivered:
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
Unlike Zechariah’s question in response to his angel visitation a mere few verses prior, Mary’s question is not fuelled by doubt but rather by wonder and awe. We can be quick to dismiss the option of asking questions when God speaks, for fear of it being equated with doubt or unbelief. Yet, I believe there is a difference between questioning God and asking Him questions in search for answers. In fact, asking God questions may be the very thing that strengthens our faith in Him, as we walk with Him on a journey of discovery.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. | Luke 1:38a
Before Mary gave her final response, she verbally identifies herself as “the Lord’s servant”, one who is distinguished as obedient and faithful to God. Mary’s response was driven by her devotion to God and her willingness to put aside her own will in favour of the will of God.
As humans, it tends to be in our nature to respond based on our emotions or present circumstance. Our logical mind prompts us to evaluate against our present reality, to weigh it up against the facts, then determine our response. However, as Christians, our identity as those chosen by God should be the position from which we respond to a word from God. We need to trust in God’s ability to chose, rather than question our ability to deliver. We are called to hold on to the truth that “no word from God will ever fail” (verse 37).
3. She came into agreement with the word from God
“May your word to me be fulfilled.” | Luke 1:38b
Mary didn’t just accept the word, she made a declaration of her agreement. Despite how impossible it seemed – a virgin giving birth to a child – and the likely negative impact on her reputation, Mary aligned herself with a word from God. This was a bold declaration of faith. Faith coupled with the God of the impossible is a breeding ground for miracles!
It is because of Mary’s childlike faith, characterised by wonder, submission and agreement, that we can celebrate the birth of Jesus each Christmas.