For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Since I’ve become a mother, my perspective on our Savior’s birth has completely changed. Prior to motherhood, I saw Jesus’ birth as purely beautiful. As I’ve grown and had children of my own, I can’t help but think, how would I have handled being in Mary’s situation?
Mary has been estimated by historians to have been between 12 and 14 when the angel came to her and told her she would be impregnated by God. 12-14?! Let’s just take a moment here and really imagine. What would you have done if someone said that to you? First of all, she was a virgin; how could she conceive? Secondly, she was unmarried. How scandalous would that have been? Finally, she was just a normal girl with no special stature or title. Yet, because of her faith, she was chosen by God. And what was her response? She questioned it! We find the details in Luke 1:28-38.
In verse 28, the angel Gabriel comes to Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” And verse 29 shows Mary’s initial reaction.
But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. She was troubled! I imagine Mary was thinking, O favored one? I am just a servant of God. What is this angel talking about? Then in verses 30-33, Gabriel goes on, And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Accepting the Task
Now what would you say to that? She was a humble girl and I am sure she was thinking, Who am I? Who am I to be charged with such a great task? And she did question Gabriel, wondering how she could conceive being a virgin in verse 34: And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
Gabriel goes on to explain in the following verses. 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 born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 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.
I would like to think I would have been so full of grace in my response to Gabriel if I had been chosen by God as she was. But part of me can’t help but wonder what strength and faith she had to accept this task, merely responding that she was a servant of the Lord, so let it be. I’m sure she knew what she was signing up for. Her fiance, Joseph, may not stay with her. She could be mocked and scorned by the people for calling herself a virgin and being pregnant out of wedlock. I’m sure the unknowns were plentiful. But she had faith. Incredible faith.
I can’t help but think of some of the challenges I face and how much less difficult they would be if my faith was so unwavering. I think this can serve as a reminder to us that God has a plan, and though the road may be messy, there is always a purpose to our suffering.
In Matthew 1:19-21, we find that Joseph did, in fact, intend of leaving Mary. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph was a man willing to do what God had told him. Even though I’m sure he knew how scandalous his marriage to Mary may be, with her first child not being his, he accepted God’s instruction to stay with Mary. You can imagine the disappointment he probably felt, as a man. His wife would be giving birth first to a baby who isn’t his.
To me, this is a great reflection on how so many men accept children that are not their own in today’s society. With broken homes and second marriages becoming more and more common, there are many men who don’t get to feel that joy of sharing a first pregnancy with their wives. And I think this is a great lesson to us. Disappointment is real. But God’s plan is greater. If we do as He says, great things will come of it.
The Importance of Family
If we look back to when Gabriel first came to Mary, in Luke 1:36, he mentions Mary’s relative Elizabeth also being pregnant. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. Why would he mention this at such a crucial moment? Elizabeth’s pregnancy is also very important in this story. First, because Mary went to visit Elizabeth for three months. I can imagine, being young and pregnant under such incredible circumstances, Mary wanted to be with family. And not just any family, but family who understood some of what she was going through and Elizabeth was well into her pregnancy at this point. Also, Elizabeth was barren and an old age, so her pregnancy was pretty unexpected as well. We can see further into our reading that God had a plan for Elizabeth’s pregnancy as well. Read more about Mary’s visit with Elizabeth in Luke 1:39-56.
We will focus on verses 41-45: And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
I get a few different things from this passage. First of all, I can assume an angel has also visited Elizabeth to inform her of Mary’s pregnancy and the Savior she is carrying. Also, her child leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice at the door. I think it’s very important here to note that the baby Elizabeth is carrying is John the Baptist. John the Baptist kind of “paved the way” for Jesus’ ministry. John went before Jesus and prepared the hearts of so many to be ready for the coming of the Savior. Again, we are reminded how intricate God’s plan is.
The Unimpressive labor
I used to think, Oh, how wonderful it must have been to have given birth to Jesus. Now, I have given birth twice and I know it’s no picnic! Of course there are many major differences in my births and Mary’s experience. First of all, I was in a temperature-controlled hospital, modern medicine at my disposal, a somewhat comfortable bed, a hot bath to relax in, an entire medical team and my family with me.
When Mary was giving birth, she was away from home, away from all family, and in a barn full of animals. I can’t help but picture myself, barking demands because I’m in pain and I just want this to be over. Oh, but Mary full of grace…She was surrounded by the odor of farm animals, laying in hay or straw, and certainly didn’t have any ice chips handy or a fluffy pillow. She was torn away from her home and family because of the census. A woman didn’t give birth with a man present back then. They had a woman beside them who had been through it themselves.
Can you imagine Joseph? I know how helpless my husband felt when I was in labor. I can only imagine how Joseph must have felt, back before it was standard for a man to be present. He must have been terrified he would mess something up! We imagine all our hopes and dreams for our first baby and just think of how shattered those were for Mary. Nothing was going according to plan. Disappointment.
Blessings in the Disappointment
But, again, how incredible God made this unimpressive experience! The labor certainly was nothing to write home about, but the end result…miraculous. When she first held baby Jesus, she knew she was looking at God’s Son. She knew her Son would save the entire world. Okay, so the disappointments we face on a daily basis could never bring forth such a miracle as the Son of God. But we do have blessings in our disappointments. Sometimes the best thing that can happen is for our plans to be completely blown. Being completely honest with you, sometimes I get so mad my plans don’t turn out, I almost turn my brain off to seeing any blessing in it. But, when I look back on my plans that didn’t come to pass, I can see where God’s plan did. And it’s so hard to remember that in the moment surrounded by disappointment, isn’t it? But we KNOW God works for the good of those who love Him and for His Kingdom. (Romans 8:28)
There are so many things we have to live through in this world. With a lot of the struggles, we won’t know why they’ve happen until we are called to Heaven. But we have to believe that what we go through will expand God’s Kingdom and has a higher purpose. And believing that in the midst of the struggle; that’s faith. And Mary, my friend, had some incredible, unwavering faith.
But, let’s be careful not to worship Mary. Mary was a vessel. A vessel chosen by God because of her faith. So let’s not worship her, but model her faith. On this day, and every day, let us remember that God is using our current situation to bring forth great things. No matter the struggle, let’s walk through the situations He has put us in with faith like Mary’s. A disappointed mother, as we often are; but one with a great, great purpose.
God bless you all this Christmas.
Love in Christ,