by Julia M. Bruce, MSPC, Mental Health Coach,
Keynote Speaker, CEO, Wellspring Christian Ministries
Week 3 of Advent: Rejoice
We can rejoice when we obey God’s unconventional and extraordinary plan
The Christmas story is certain one we can rejoice and praise God for His unconditional love that was displayed in His unconventional and extraordinary plan. But it was a plan that came with costs. How often do we read or think about the Christmas story but don’t really stop to think about what Mary’s obedience would cost her. But we find in Luke 1, that Mary chooses obedience over costs. But she doesn’t obey in reluctance. Instead we find her obedient heart sings praise to God. Because of her obedience, we today are able to rejoice with the steadfast hope of eternal life.
Mary’s cost of Obedience
In our world, we don’t think twice about an unwed teen girl getting pregnant outside of marriage. But in Mary’s day, girls could have been stoned to death. There could have been a legal cost to her obedience.
Mary also was betrothed (engaged) to Joseph. So imagine having to tell Joseph that an angel showed up and said you would conceive and become pregnant without losing your virginity. Joseph’s first reaction is one that we would expect. He wanted to break of the engagement. However, he cared about Mary, and so he wanted to do it quietly. Perhaps to cause the least amount of embarrassment to her, or maybe to keep her from getting stoned to death. Either way, he demonstrated his loved and protection in choosing to do it quietly. But Joseph has his own angel experience who tells him to take Mary as his wife and that the child she carried was indeed from God. Joseph obeys and becomes the husband of Mary, but does not know her intimately until after the birth of Jesus.
Mary also faced social stigma as others realized she was pregnant. The Bible doesn’t tell us how others reacted, but she could have faced being called names and shunned. She could have been the talk of all the local gossip. Even if she told others about her conversation with an angel, who would have believed her?
Because Mary was not married at the time the angel came to see her, she would have still had to have been living at home with her parents. So she would have had the cost of having to tell her parents she was pregnant.
The costs certainly were not something to rejoice about. But yet, Mary was willing to humbly submit and obey God’s plan.
How can this be?
Now, Mary had some questions about all the angel was telling her. She asked the angel, “How can this be since I have not known a man?” Sometimes we’re afraid to ask God questions, but here Mary asks, and the angel explains. He tells her that the child she conceives will be conceived of God and that nothing is impossible for Him. I’m sure all the costs went through Mary’s mind as the angel told her what was about to happen. But despite the costs, we find Mary’s surrender and obedience to God’s plan in Luke 1:38. She says to the angel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Here, she is simply acknowledging her willingness to be obedient. But she is also confused and does not yet rejoice about her circumstances.
What was Mary thinking?
Maybe she was thinking that no one would believe her when she told her of this experience. Maybe she was excited and humbled to be chosen by God to bare the Son of God. Or maybe she wondered if this child would be the long-awaited, promised Messiah. Did she understand the Messiah would become the sacrifice for our sins, or did she think like most people of her day that he would be a king that would overthrow the Roman government and restore the Davidic kingship.
We don’t really know what went through her head in those moments. All we can do is try to put ourselves in her shoes and imagine what she was thinking. What we do know is that God asked her to do something unconventional and extraordinary and Mary said, “Let it me to me according to your word.” In other words, she said, “Yes. I am willing. Let it happen exactly as you said.”
Can you think of a time that God wanted you to do something extraordinary? As you counted the costs did you say no to God, or did you say, “let it be to me according to your word”?
Mary was able to rejoice even when it was confusing
The angel also gave Mary the news that her cousin, Elizabeth, was pregnant. Elizabeth was older, in fact, too old to have children. And up until now, she had not had any children. But God gave her a miracle son who would be the “forerunner” to Jesus to prepare the people for the coming Messiah. For a barren woman of that day to become pregnant, was certainly something to rejoice about. So Mary decides to go visit Elizabeth and when she arrives, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped for joy. The Holy Spirit reveals to Elizabeth and Mary is also pregnant and carrying the Son of God.
Elizabeth says to Mary: “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.”
Mary then breaks forth in song and says the words that have become apart of just about every Christmas script:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)
The cost to Mary hadn’t changed. She may still not have fully understood all that God was doing in her life. She may not have realized that this first born child of hers would one day be beaten beyond recognition, nailed to a cross, die, and then rise again. But her confusion changed and she was able to rejoice and praise God for what she was going through even though the costs were still there.
What made the difference?
Mary had learned to trust God so she could rejoice even in difficult times
Mary was the daughter of poor parents, but it was a godly home. For her, life was hard, but God is good. She was just as human as you or I and we must be careful not to exalt her to a position that she is not. She might not have had any idea how things would turn out, but she trusted God to do what He said and to do the impossible. Because she trusted God, she was fully read to surrender in obedience to His plan.
When we trust God we can rejoice in His unconventional and extraordinary plans regardless of the costs.
Mary had already made the choices that prepared her for God’s plan
In verses 27 and 34, the Bible tells us that Mary was a virgin. She was engaged to Joseph, but they had made the decision to maintain moral purity until married. Despite there being laws in place that could have resulted in her being stoned to death, there were still prostitutes and people struggled just as much to wait until marriage as they do today. But Mary chose to stay pure and chaste. In doing so, she not only honored herself and Joseph, but she also honored God.
Mary’s choice of purity put her in just the right position for God to select her for His plan that was both unconventional and extraordinary. 2 Timothy 2:21 says, “So if anyone purifies himself from these things, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” Mary chose to remain chaste and pure and a chaste and pure girl is exactly what God needed to fulfill His plan to send His own Son into the world to save us from our sins.
For Jesus to be both 100% God and 100% human he had to have been born to a virgin and conceived by God, it is the only way for him to be both. Had Mary not have been a virgin, there would have always been the question of who was Jesus’ father. Because she was a virgin, the only answer is God did the impossible in an unconventional and extraordinary way.
When we live pure lives according to God’s commandments, we can rejoice when God asks us to do the unconventional and extraordinary plans for our lives.
Mary could rejoice because she knew the true identity of her Son
Sometimes when God asks us to do the unconventional and extraordinary He gives us very little information, such as when He told Abraham to pack up his family and move. But God didn’t tell Abraham where. Abraham just had to trust God to get him there. Other times, God let’s us in on his plans and provides more information. Listen to the angel telling Mary God’s plan:
“Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name JESUS. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”
Mary heard those titles: Jesus (“Jehovah is salvation”), Son of the Most High, Messiah. Before anyone else on earth knew who He was or why He came, Mary knew. She understood the purpose of her pregnancy and all the scandal in the world could not change that. When she weighed the costs, she knew that there was a grater cost to every man woman and child throughout all of history if she did not surrender to God’s plan.
Whether God let’s in on the details of his plan like Mary, or keeps us in uncertainty like Abraham, we can step out in faith to obey God and rejoice in what He is doing in our lives.
Rejoice in God my Savior
John the Baptist is often thought of as the first evangelist, but Mary, a poor, plain, teenaged girl was the first evangelist of all. And she told the Gospel first in song as her awe that God would choose her for the Messiah broke into a song of praise. Her song is recorded for all eternity in Luke 1:46-55:
46 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Because of Mary’s surrender and obedience to God’ unconventional and extraordinary plan, we all can rejoice.
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