Vantage Point: An Advent Devotional Week 3 - There’s Something About Mary
Welcome to week three of our advent devotional series, “Vantage Point,” where throughout the Christmas season we’re looking at the Christmas story from four different points of view. All different, but all culminating in one history altering moment, the birth of Jesus. Today we look at the vantage point of the most famous individual in the Christmas story outside of Jesus. Her name is Mary, and she was a truly special young woman. I pray this devotional teaches you something that increases your understanding of our amazing God, stirs your soul and moves you to action!
Let’s begin in Luke 1:26;
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
The truth is not a whole lot is known about who Mary was. But here’s what we do know. Most likely she is no more than 13-14 years old. In those days women were betrothed to be married by their father and the father of the groom. Socially and economically she grew up in the sleepy little town of Nazareth, was from the lower class, poor, uneducated and couldn’t read or write.
As a young woman engaged to be married she and Joseph would not have consummated their marriage yet and no official ceremony had taken place, but they were legally married and would have been preparing to begin the simple life of a 1st century Jewish couple. Knowing all that, what the angel Gabriel says to Mary is absolutely stunning.
28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Picture this scene with me. We don’t know exactly what Mary was doing when Gabriel appeared. But whatever she was doing it would have been startling and probably a little terrifying to suddenly have an angel of God at your doorstep. Even more startling than his presence though, was what Gabriel said; “Hello Mary, you are HIGHLY FAVORED.” And this is the first thing I want us to see about Mary; this is a young woman of tremendous humility. Look at how she responded. It says “she was greatly troubled at his words.” In other words, she was like, who, me!? I’m highly favored?? You’ve got to have the wrong person. First of all, I’m a 14 year old WOMAN. Women aren’t highly favored in this culture. Are you sure you’re not looking for a man? Not only that but I have no money, I have no education and to top it all off I’m from the town of NAZARETH and you know what they say about Nazareth right? (“can anything good come from Nazareth?”) In Mary’s mind she just couldn’t understand how SHE of all people was “highly favored.” But she was, and we’re going to find out why.
30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
Mary, you may not see yourself as highly favored, but God does. And his opinion is the only one that matters. And if you need any proof of what God thinks of you I’ve got another bombshell to blow your mind with. You are going to be the mother of the long awaited messiah that has been prophesied about for centuries. Now at this point Mary has so many questions. Wouldn’t you? So she asked, “HOW WILL THIS BE?” I mean in case you haven’t noticed I’m a virgin and the last time I checked it takes two to tango if you know what I mean. Well;
35 The angel answered, “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. 36 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. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Here’s the deal Mary. This child will be miraculously created by the Holy Spirit in your womb. And this is what’s going to make him unlike anyone who has ever lived. He’s not just going to be a man, he’s going to be God himself. FULLY human but FULLY God. To help Mary believe Gabriel gives her evidence of God’s power and plan by telling her about her cousin Elizabeth, who was also going to bear a son in a miraculous way. “I did it for her and I will do it for you Mary. I am making you a promise and when I make a promise I always keep it.
And at this we see the true reason Mary is so highly favored in the eyes of God. Look at her response. While she still may not have fully understood all that was about to happen, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant…may your word be fulfilled.” The word servant used here in the original language is doulé (slave), and it brings to mind the COMPLETE SUBMISSION of one person to another. And so here’s what I want us to see today;
There was something about Mary, and that something was submission.
What made Mary highly favored was not anything special she had done by worldly standards, but her genuinely submissive heart to the Lord. God chose her because he knew she would willingly submit to the Lord’s plan and purpose for her life even when it was scary and risky. And there is much we can learn from her.
The truth is we don’t like the word submission, at all! Why? Because human beings are prideful and have a deep need to be in control of their own lives. Submission means I have to surrender my will, plans and desires to someone else’s. Submission means letting go of my need to control my own life. The truth is most of us are way too big of control freaks to submit fully to the Lord. And yet it is such an essential aspect of our spiritual life and vitality. So the question is, how do we do that? Mary shows us;
Submission starts with a deep sense of humility. Humility is maybe THE defining characteristic that God is after in our lives because it is the opposite of pride, which is the root of all sin. Humility is the beginning of a true and right relationship with God. If we can’t admit that we are sinners we will never seek Jesus as our savior and be forever out of fellowship with him and outside all of his blessings. Faithful obedience flows from humility. We will never be obedient to God if we believe we know better than he does. It is the key to so many important things in our lives. Humility combats selfishness which says “I deserve this” rather than saying “I have more than I deserve.” It is the key to seeking forgiveness from God and from others. Why was Mary greatly troubled when Gabriel said she was, “highly favored?” Because she DID NOT FEEL WORTHY. In other words she was humble. And THAT is the very reason she WAS highly favored.
Submission takes root with a deep trust in God’s sovereignty. Two of the most important attributes of God are that He is Holy and Sovereign. And His sovereignty is directly connected to his holiness. He is in control of all things. And because he is Holy his will is perfect, even when we don’t understand it. Mary submitted herself as a servant of the Lord because she trusted that no matter what, “no word from God will ever fail.” No plan or purpose of his will fail, so if we’re walking in his will we can’t fail. Obviously this requires tremendous trust even when we don’t have all the answers. I’m sure Mary had fears; what will others think of me? I am going to be made an embarrassment of, some people may even threaten to stone me to death. But she trusted God’s plan regardless.
The bottom line is that submission is essential to our relationship with God and as a result is so good for our souls.
Living a life of control is a miserable way to live. The need for control leads to so much anxiety and fear. About our health, jobs, money, relationships and everything else in between. So, I want you to hear this today;
So much of our anxiety would disappear if we could submit all of our “unknowns” to the Lord and just trust his sovereignty.
To simply trust that when God is in control he is working things for our good. The lie we believe and that Satan constantly tempts us with is that we want to be in control, but trust me we want God in control! Why? Well, Romans 8:28 puts it better than I ever could;
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Today, there are only two options for living; 1) Humbly trusting God and living in full submission to his will 2) Trying to be in control of our own life. I promise you, one is so much better. Mary discovered that, and I pray you do as well.
In the end, Mary simply models for us what Jesus ultimately did. That little baby boy would one day humbly submit his will to his Father’s and became a servant to the world through his death on the cross. And because of the cross, those who trust in him as Lord and savior are now “highly favored!” What a glorious and amazing truth to ponder as we reflect on the Christmas season.
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