Tuesday, December 8, 2020

They Mattered

One of two main women in the Christmas story, Mary lived at a time when women were not given much consideration. If not for God’s choice to include her in Jesus’ birth, I doubt she would have made it into Scripture. But, like I mentioned in the last post, nothing is happenstance for God. His choices are deliberate. And they are full of grace. The five women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy showcase this. Their inclusion was an incredibly rare occurrence. But before their names were ever written down, their lives were chosen to be a part of Jesus’ rich lineage. These women were not the ones we would have chosen as Christ’s descendants. They were scarred. They had criminal and embarrassing pasts. But God gave them the opportunity to reflect His mercy. He lifted them higher. He showed that they matter. He flipped the world’s expectations upside-down.

And so, when Mary encounters the angel Gabriel and he says, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28), I bet you could have knocked her down with a feather. She, probably illiterate, living in the tiny rural town of Nazareth—to be called highly favored! It was not expected. Indeed, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words.”

But Gabriel, knowing the human tendency to fear, gently says, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God” (v. 30). I bet a lot of things rushed through Mary’s mind at this proclamation. As women, we are inclined to take a phrase and spin it in a thousand different directions before the sentence is even finished. Maybe Mary was thinking about a task she had left undone, or a dark path she didn’t like to walk alone. Maybe she was thinking about her family, and the weight of the taxes they had to pay to Rome each year. Maybe she was worried about her betrothal to Joseph.

When the angel said, “Do not be afraid,” did all those fears wash away? It certainty prepared her heart for what was coming next:

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (v.30-33)

Now, just like Zechariah, Mary asks, “How can this be?” But instead of being banished into silence, Gabriel goes on to explain: “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” (v.35-37)

The Lord knew Mary’s heart. He knew she had faith in the Rock beneath her feet. And He also knew her uncertainty. Not because she doubted, but because, as a woman she had probably never been taught the same things about God’s character that Zechariah the priest had. What she said next came not from experience or foresight, but from deep faith:

“I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” (v.38)

Do not be afraid.
No word from God will ever fail.
I have to believe that the presence of an angel, plus these words sent from God Himself had the power to produce a deep peace in Mary.

We don’t often encounter angels, but we can hear from God. Do we allow His words to affect us like they did Mary?

Madeleine L’Engle talks about this when she describes her experience with story.

When we try to define and over-define and narrow down, we lose the story the Maker of the Universe is telling us . . .

And that is how I want to read and write story. This does not mean that story deals only with cheeriness, but that beneath the reality of life is the rock of faith. I ask God to set me upon a rock that is higher than I so that I may be able to see more clearly, see the tragedy and the joy and sometimes the dull slogging along of life with an assurance that not only is there rock under my feet, but that God made the rock and you and me, and is concerned with Creation, every galaxy, every atom, and subatomic particle. Matter matters.

This is the promise of the Incarnation. Christ put on human matter, and what happens to us is of eternal cosmic importance. That is what true story affirms.

(Miracle on 10th Street, p. 77-78)
I don’t believe Mary was naively agreeing to God’s plan. When the angel spoke, I think he gifted her with the ability to see God holding all of Creation with this one decision to send His son. The tragedies, the joys, even the dull sloggings of life all matter. They mattered for those living the Lineage of Expectation, and they matter for us, awaiting Jesus’ second Advent. God does not waste what He has created.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.