December 15, 2014
In His Grip Devotions
Mary, What Did You Know?
By Sharon W. Betters
For our December In His Grip devotions, my wife Sharon, will encourage you with some of her thoughts about Christmas.
I chuckle every time I think about our son Chuck's recent Facebook Status, "I wonder if Mary ever gets tired of choirs asking her if she knows."
I'm hoping his question hasn't ruined how this song moves me every time I hear it!
But the song begs the question, what did Mary know?
Eye Witness Accounts
The writer of the book of Luke gives us the most insight into Mary. Luke declares in Chapter 1 that he based his account of Jesus' life on eyewitness reports that he carefully investigated, making sure every detail is correct. Mary appears to be one of his eye witnesses because Luke shares such personal information about Mary's encounter with an Angel, her relationship to Elizabeth, details about the birth of Jesus. Twice Luke tells us that Mary pondered these things and treasured them up in her heart. This is such a personal insight into a very private part of Mary; we need to take notice of the words Luke uses to describe her story. Some of it reads like a personal journal, but acts as "salty peanuts" for me. I am not satisfied with just what Luke tells us - I can't wait to sit at the feet of Mary in heaven and ask her for more details. Yet, each Mary vignette is a chest full of treasures, waiting for discovery.
Mary and the Angel
Luke introduces us to Mary in Chapter 1:26 where we learn she is a virgin, promised as a bride to a man named Joseph. We can deduce from the culture at that time that Mary was most likely a young teenage girl. Engagement was as legally binding as marriage. But wow! Imagine seeing an angel. Imagine hearing an angel. Imagine hearing an angel speak your name and declare,
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!
Would you be afraid? Terror would grip my heart! Mary was greatly troubled - I think terrified might be a good word, too. We know she was afraid because the angel then declares,
Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor [grace] with God...
The angel continues, but let's just take a minute to think about these words. Remember, this is an eyewitness account. This is what Mary wants us to know about her life story. Review these two statements:
Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!
(Mary, you are highly favored BECAUSE the Lord is with you!)
Do not be afraid, Mary (remember, the Lord is with you), you have found favor (undeserved mercy) with God...
These words were important to Mary.
What is this God-imposed Grace? Mercy undeserved. This is not something Mary created or earned for herself. By these words, God calls Mary to relationship with Him. Believing these words required her to trust the heart of God and what she embraced as His character. Was He really trustworthy? He didn’t map out the whole plan for Mary, did He? He just promised through this angel, that He had plans to prosper her and not to harm her. And that the only way she would experience those plans was by relationship with Him. How many times in scripture do we read about God calling a person to a seemingly impossible task and then when they ask for the Plan, He replies, “Don’t be afraid. I will go with you.” To surrender to God's Plan when the only part we know is that He will walk the pathway with us requires a personal relationship with the one promising to always be present.
Mary is about to embark on the most amazing, unbelievable and extremely difficult pathway, designed by God just for her. What she believes about the character of God will shape her response to this pathway. The angel's words challenge her to consider her worldview. Through what grid would she view this profound upside down disruption in her life? I bet Mary came back to these words again and again, every time someone gossiped, or when she knew Joseph thought about divorcing her or when they travelled to Bethlehem and she was ready to give birth and there was no place for them, when they ran in the middle of the night to escape the swords of Herod’s soldiers who were sent to kill all the baby boys under two years of age, or when Joseph said it was time to move again and again...and later in life when her adolescent son was lost for 3 days and when found, seemed to rebuke her and remind her that he was growing up into a much bigger purpose than she could understand. I bet she repeatedly took a deep breath and reviewed these statements, clinging to the promise of God's grace and His Presence.
When she struggled to reflect her faith when she really wanted to lose her temper or fight with her husband, or weep over her inability to parent this special child, did she cry out to God, where is that GRACE you promised! Did she wonder - Was God reliable? Was He really Present? When she saw her son nailed to a cross, did she remember these words again? And choose to believe God's promise of His presence when Grief would have stopped her heart from beating if it could?
Tomorrow we'll take a look at Mary's response to the angel's words and her ultimate surrender to God's plans. But for now, I suggest that Mary's surrender could only take place because she embraced the angel's promise of God's Presence. There would be moments in Mary's life where the only way she could take the next step was to remember the promise of God's Presence. I resonate with that because of the many times in my own grief journey where the promise of God's Presence was what enabled me to take the next step. The Promise of God's Presence drives the Christmas Story. What other reason would God have for naming His Son, Immanuel, which means God with us? There are times in life when the only sure thing is God's Presence and that is the greatest Christmas present of all.
Next week we'll take a look at Mary's words: How can this be since I know not a man? How many times have you responded to unexpected circumstances with, "How can this be...?" And then what…?
In His Grip,
Sharon W. Betters
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