Among the cast of Christmas characters, what more could be said about Mary, the sainted (sometimes deified) mother of Jesus and undoubtedly most famous woman in the world? Nothing, really. At least nothing new…but we can take a fresh look at Mary, perhaps remembering something we learned long ago that now has deeper meaning for us. Or perhaps finding a new point-of-view on an all-too-familiar scene.
I was “great with child” at Christmas time. I remember lugging my big belly around, struggling to get out of cars, sweating even when it was cold. That year, I empathized with Mary more than ever before. That was also the year I read Francine Rivers’ novella from the Lineage of Grace series, Unafraid: Mary. (I highly recommend that book, by the way!) I couldn’t imagine climbing onto a donkey, feeling the first pains of labor, or giving birth with no one around. I was twenty-nine years old. Mary was very young, unexperienced, and far from home. Well, let’s just take a look…
After Gabriel left (Luke 1:38), I imagine Mary sat for a few minutes with a stunned look on her face. She had just received the biggest news EVER! It had to be shocking. Then her mind started racing: so much to do, so many people to tell…
Overwhelmed with some bit of life-changing news (good or bad): have you been there? Do you know those moments where you brain is so busy processing that you don’t even remember to breath? It takes a few minutes to drag yourself out of that stupor and respond to real life…to start breathing again. Top priority for Mary: telling her mother.
Mary ran the gossip gauntlet every
time she left her home in Nazareth.
Hold on just a minute. How would Mary’s pregnancy look to the people of Nazareth? Every young Jewish girl hoped to be chosen as the Messiah’s mother, and I’m guessing that a few girls tried to claim it every year. Mary would have sounded just like them: another girl who couldn’t wait for her wedding night, and now she was paying the consequences. Oh, the gossips would have a field day, especially since Joseph had such a strong reputation and Mary was known to be an honorable young woman!
The Messy Months
We like to think about beautiful, clean, serene Mary in the stable holding Baby Jesus while Joseph stands proudly beside her—the perfect, noble little family. But think about the six months prior to that. Mary was an unwed, teenage mother in a very conservative society. It was messy and embarrassing. Her whole family would have been shamed, even ostracized. Sure, she and Joseph moved up the wedding date, but everyone knew (or at least could guess) why.
We’ve all watched believing families walk through something like this—the rebellious son, the pregnant daughter. Stop for a second and think about yourself as that girl or boy, telling your mother that a baby was coming. How would she react?
Now put yourself in the parent role (even if you aren’t a parent). What would you say to your (hypothetical) daughter? Could you control your tongue in those first few minutes? The Bible says absolutely nothing about Mary’s mother/Jesus’ grandmother. I wish we knew how she reacted to the news…
What About Joseph?
The hardest part had
to be telling Joseph.
In my estimation, the challenge of telling her Mom wasn’t Mary’s most difficult task. Telling Joseph would have been even harder. (We’ll consider his point-of-view next week.) You know Mary prayed about it and chose her words carefully. She knew Joseph’s honorable character, and she knew that he cared about her.
Maybe Mary’s Mom suggested the visit to Elizabeth. It would give Mary a chance to escape the stares and the half-whispered comments. And while she was away, Joseph could figure out what he wanted to do about their situation.
God Already Knew
Mary didn’t become the favored
one because she carried Jesus.
She was already favored.
In conclusion, think for a minute about Gabriel’s first words to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” God had already looked into Mary’s life. She didn’t become the favored one because she carried Jesus. She was already favored; carrying Jesus was her blessing as well as her burden.
God knew the road ahead for Mary wouldn’t be easy…and I’m not just talking about the dirt road to Bethlehem.
He knew she was young.
He knew she wouldn’t understand everything that happened.
He knew she would be afraid more than once.
He also knew her strength of character.
He knew the heritage of Godliness she carried in her heart.
He knew Joseph’s faithful spirit.
He knew she would treasure every memory and think about them for the rest of her life (2:19).
He knew she would be a good mother.
He knew He would be with her the whole way (1:28).
Mary had to trust God more than most teenage girls could every dream possible. She sets the standard for us all with her simple response to Gabriel: “I am the Lord’s servant” (1:38).
How has your life intersected with Mary’s? Please share in the comments below.