Mary, the Mother of Jesus
There is a wonder surrounding Mary, the mother of Jesus, -wonder because she was the one who was chosen to bear God’s Son. The angel Gabriel told her that she had found favor with God. She must have had a believing and humble heart to have been chosen as blessed among women. Even though she didn’t understand the mystery of God coming to live with humans, she accepted it with faith and joy.
When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary in Nazareth to announce Christ’s’ birth, Mary was troubled. “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God will give 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 1:30b-33)
And Mary asks: “How can this be, since I have not had sex with a man?” (Luke 1:34) And the angel Gabriel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Then the angel Gabriel told Mary that Elizabeth, one of her relatives was pregnant. Elizabeth had been unable to have a baby and was elderly now - too old to be having a baby; but Gabriel encouraged Mary’s faith by reminding her that “with God nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:37.
Mary bowed before the angel Gabriel and answered him: “Here I am, the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:38)
Mary did not understand all that was about to happen in her life, but she was glad that she could be part of Gods’ plan and her heart was filled with joy. She sang a song expressing how she felt about being chosen to become the mother of Gods’ Son. “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…” she sang. (Luke 1:46-47)
As you can see here, according to Scripture, Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus is Son of God and Son of man (a mystery that we can not understand, we just accept on faith). Mary was engaged to marry Joseph at the time she became pregnant with Jesus, the promised Messiah. It would seem that Joseph was upset when he found out that Mary was pregnant, since he knew that her baby could not be his child. This pregnancy did put Mary in a bind.
No doubt there was whispering behind her back. Probably the rest of her family did not understand. Mary probably told Joseph that the angel Gabriel had appeared to her and that the baby she was having was the Son of God, but Joseph must not have believed her. (Would you have?) The Bible says that Joseph was planning to break up with her when an angel appeared to him and assured him that Mary was indeed a virgin. The angel informed him that the baby that she was carrying was truly the Son of God, and that the child should be named “Jesus” which means “the Savior or the One who saves from sin” (Matthew 1:19-25)
Even though Mary was blessed and highly favored by God, (Luke 1:28) her life was not easy. We all know the story of Jesus’ birth and how He was born in a manger. We have heard the magical Christmas story so often - the babe in the manger- that we soon forget that the manger was just a dirty animal shelter. There were probably flies and smells in the manger where Mary had her baby. The animals went to the bathroom in their stalls (the manger) and it was probably cold and muddy there too. Even though Mary was in labor, no one would make room for her in any of the inns in Bethlehem. Joseph knocked on door after door begging for a space for Mary as she delivered her baby, but everyone turned them away. Mary was rejected by everyone in her hour of need.
Mary’s life was not easy. When she and Joseph took the newborn baby Jesus to the temple to dedicate Him to God, the prophet Simeon came and prophesied over the baby. Simeon foretold of future emotional suffering for Mary. “A sword will pierce through your own soul also.” he said. (Luke 2:35) And then when Jesus was just a month or two old, Herod decided to find him and kill him. Mary and Joseph had to get up and flee with the baby Jesus to Egypt to protect him from harm. We can only imagine Mary’s’ bewilderment at the problems and persecutions that this special baby of hers was causing.
Years later Mary must have been bewildered again when she and Joseph spent three days worrying and looking for the twelve year old Jesus after they lost him among the crowds in Jerusalem. When they finally found him in the temple, Jesus asked them: “Didn’t you know that I must be about My Father’s business? But Mary and Joseph did not understand him.” (Luke 2:49-50) The Bible tells us that Mary did not understand all of what God was doing with her Son Jesus. But she kept following God’s basic directive for her life.
When Jesus was a boy growing up he lived in the town of Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and their other children. Scholars believe that back in Jesus’ day Nazareth was a small town and that most of the people living there were related to one another. But Scripture tells us that when Jesus returned as an adult to Nazareth, his home town, He was rejected by nearly everyone there. (Matt. 13:53-56) A group of Nazarenes even tried to throw Him off of the steep cliff that is outside of the city. These people were His relatives!
And the Bible also tells us that even Jesus’ brothers didn’t all believe in Him (John 7:5) and thought He was out of His mind.(Mark 3:20-21) We can only wonder how Mary felt when her relatives and neighbors in Nazareth didn’t believe her when she told them about the angel Gabriel’s message to her. Even Mary’s own children, Jesus’ brothers, didn’t listen to their Mother and rejected her Son. The Bible says that “He came unto His own, but His own received Him not.” (John 1:11) Jesus was rejected, but Mary shared that rejection and that misunderstanding with her Son. Her life was not easy.
Mary is a study in the pathway forward in God’s will. Instead of respect, it seems she suffered rejection. She never tried to obtain an elevated position among Jesus’ followers. She must have become a widow early on since Joseph is not mentioned after Jesus became an adult. In that patriarchal culture, being a widow often meant having to live in poverty. Mary didn’t seem to have a place to live at the time that Jesus went to the cross. From the cross Jesus asked John to take care of his mother and after Jesus died, Mary went to live in John’s house.
Mary remained steadfast with Jesus all the way to the cross. And can you imagine how her heart was broken there at the cross? And after Jesus ascended into heaven, Mary obediently joined His other followers in the Upper Room to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14)
Mary is a model of obedience and an example for us. Perhaps we can all learn something from her life. When we are confused about what is happening in our lives can we, like Mary did, trust God with the confusion and with our lives? If loved ones reject us or our hearts are broken, can we like Mary keep on believing that God will work through the problems in ways that we can’t imagine?
There was a song a few years ago that went something like this: “My Lord knows the way through the wilderness. All I have to do is follow.” Isn’t that how Mary lived her life? She accepted the glorious mysteries along with the wildernesses in her life all on faith and then she followed. Her life could be described by the words she spoke as she bowed before the angel Gabriel; “Here I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Could we follow Mary’s example? Could her words be our words too? Could we bow before God and say those words to Him? “Here I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.”
Merry Christmas! There will be no blog next week (Christmas) but please stay tuned for a timely blog on the New Year’s weekend.