It’s a story that’s always fascinated me. A young woman, betrothed but not yet married, receives a visit from an angel with an incredible salutation.
“Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke 1:28).
Favored? Chosen by God? How? Why?
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33)
We don’t know much about Mary, nothing up to this pivotal moment in her life, but we can see a bit about her character.
We know she was humble. When the angel tells her she’s been chosen, and highly favored, she brushes the compliments aside and gets right down to the practicalities: she’s a virgin. How is this going to work?
We know she had faith. Gabriel reminds her that with God all things are possible, and just like that, she’s in. No concern for how or when this will all take place. No mention of her reputation, or how this will look. Nothing to contradict God and ask why He didn’t choose someone else. Just one phrase, “Be it unto me according to your word.”
I don’t believe Mary was naive. I don’t think she saw a future of fame and fortune as the mother of the Messiah. In a very real way, before the babe in her womb turned the world upside, He was going to turn HER world upside down.
I believe she knew at least a part of the personal price she would pay, and she said yes anyway.
Whatever was coming was worth it. Whatever she might have to suffer: the physical trauma of pregnancy and birth; the sleepless nights with a newborn; the sorrow and fatigue of motherhood; the possible loss of her betrothed and with him,her security; her reputation among friends and family, who surely would count the months and whisper about the baby born too soon…all of it was worth it to Mary, to be part of God’s wondrous gift.
Long before the little baby growing inside her would deliver His message, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross…and follow me, ” Mary had already committed. Her body. Her time. Her good name. Her entire life. She gave it all up to follow.
Mary understood what I recently have been struggling to grasp: what God is doing is so much bigger than ME.
I claim I want to be chosen by God for something miraculous, but am I willing to pay the price? Do I agree until it gets hard, and then argue with God that this wasn’t what I signed up for, and He chose wrong?
Mary knew the truth: we can’t be both called and comfortable. We can’t be chosen and remain cozy. Playing a part in God’s story, carrying a cross for Him, that’s a difficult and lonely road.
When Gabriel left Mary, we don’t know what happened next. Surely her joy mingled with terror at the unexpected turn her life had taken. Joseph would have been completely within his rights to toss her aside. Her future was uncertain, to say the least.
She sought out Elizabeth, a wise elder, for counsel. But she didn’t just go to Elizabeth for advice. She knew that in Elizabeth she would find a companion for her celebration. A participant in her praise. Because while everything might look bleak on the surface, Mary knew what God was going to do. And she rejoiced in advance!
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1: 46-55
Mary knew it wasn’t all going to be sunshine and roses, but she rejoiced anyway. She rejoiced to be chosen, to be favored, knowing it was all God’s doing and nothing she could earn.
She saw the big picture, and she willing said, “Amen. Let it be so.”