Today’s Texts and Thoughts of Encouragement:
“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumph as trophies of Christ’s victory and through us spreads and makes evident the fragrance of the knowledge of God everywhere.”
II Corinthians 2:14
I love what You said to me
In Your Word today:
‘In the place
Where You have walked in defeat
There will I cause victory
To break forth.’
“Father, I look to You
To do that very thing.
You will not let me
Be ultimately defeated.
And when the battle is won
I must confidently ask
What is the next thing?”
Ruth Harms Calkins
Today’s Study Text:
“The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this. When Mary was engaged to Joseph, before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant.”
“He Came to Them First” - Part 1
Mary and the Divine Will
“Had Mary been filled with reason there would have been no room for the child.”
When I recall being a teenager, how do I think I would have handled a visit by an angel telling me I was going to have a baby?
How has God challenged me to believe and follow His will for my life?
In what ways was Mary the “perfect” vessel to hold the Son of God?
“When the angel came to Mary and brought her the message from God…then began our deliverance.”
“Mary said, ‘I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.’”
Luke 1:26-35, 38
As the holidays approached this year, I asked myself, “I wonder what it would have been like to live at the time when Jesus arrived on earth as a baby?” Maybe you have asked the same question yourself. So this year, I decided that we would push aside all the decorations and holiday feasting to walk back in time to Nazareth and Bethlehem as we visit with those special individuals who were blessed to be the first witnesses and participants in the greatest Christmas ever. In order to do this, I want to begin by taking a look at the young teen, Mary, who was greeted by an angel with very shocking news. Dr. Luke was one of the disciples who wrote about Mary’s experience. Here’s what he said:
“Now the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a girl never having been married and a virgin engaged to be married to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Hail, O favored one, endued with grace! The Lord is with you! Favored of God are you before all other women.’”
For a minute put yourself in Mary’s place. And we must never forget, history tells us Mary was probably only somewhere around the age of 15 or 16 years old. Just a child. Dr. Luke shares the fact that as the angel Gabriel entered Mary’s world “she saw him and she was greatly troubled and confused at what he said” (Luke 1: 29). Really? How would you have felt if you were in Mary’s place? I know I would have been confused, upset, shocked and more!
What I think baffled Mary were the words spoken by Gabriel: “Favored of God are you.” Being told you are pregnant and yet you know for a fact that you haven’t been with any man would certainly be confusing, even frightening. But “Favored”? That would not be a word I would have used! I can only think how one of Mary’s first thoughts may well have been, “What will my finance, Joseph think about this news?”
Here at the time of year when we celebrate the birth of Christ the Lord, we need to remember how shocking this news would have been to Mary’s world which was pierced with an announcement she couldn’t understand. Fortunately, the angel Gabriel continued with his message which was meant to bring comfort to Mary: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God” (Luke 1: 30). I want to draw our attention to the word “favour.” In the Greek, the word “charis” which is used, means: “a spiritual act of graciousness as a divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.” Gabriel informed young Mary that a gift of tremendous consequence had been bestowed upon her life as a divine act mirroring the will of God.
The Bible tells us that after hearing all that Gabriel said, with total willingness of heart, Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1: 38, K.J.V.). With a heart determined to follow the will of God, this young woman from Nazareth spoke with confident assurance that what God’s plan for her life was all about was a working out of His will. Author Elizabeth George in her wonderful book Loving God With All Your Mind, makes this critical point, “When we know God and recognize fully His deep love for us, we will more willingly and freely yield ourselves to His plan for us and our life. Although…we may sometimes ask, ‘Why?’ we can trust that God’s plan for us is good.”
Too often we may look at our own circumstances and underestimate what the will of God is able to accomplish in our lives. But as Max Thurian notes, “The poverty of Mary, living out her unseen, humble, and quite ordinary existence and sharing life with common humanity in an insignificant little village, is altogether the sign of the grace and glory of the Lord’s greatness.” “Watch out,” God was saying, “What I did through Mary, I can do in your life as well!”
It is likely that Mary could never have thought of herself as the mother of Jesus. It appeared to be a task too big for anyone, let alone a teenager. But when we add God into the equation of whatever we are called to be and to do – let us never sell-short our God, the Ruler of Heaven and Earth.
In the beautiful words penned by Bernard of Clairvaux long ago in the 12th century:
“Just as air flooded with the light of the sun is transformed into the same splendor of the light so that it appears to be light itself, so it is like for those who melt away from themselves and are entirely transfused into the will of God.”
This Christmas may our thoughts turn to following the will of our Father in every action of our life. As Frank Laubach wrote in his private letters in 1937, “I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan which is far beyond myself…My part is to live in this hour in continuous inner conversation with God and in perfect responsiveness to His will.” This was the life of young Mary who when Gabriel entered her life with the message that God needed her as His vessel to carry heaven’s beloved Son Mary answered:
“Yes, I see it all now
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me just as you say.”
The Message Bible
What Child Is This?
“What child is this who laid to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping,
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing,
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Why lies He in such mean estate
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian fear, for sinners here
The silent word is pleading,
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The Cross He bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail, the Lord made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby,
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.”
W. C. Dix
A Christmas Carol
“The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
O weary, weary was the world,
But here is all aright…
The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
O weary, weary is the world,
But here’s the world’s desire.”
G. K. Chesterton
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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