For we walk by faith, not by sight.2 Corinthians 5:7
I am on an Advent journey of slowing down in the midst of the rushed and stressful Christmas season. Looking back to look forward is what I’m calling it. If you are just starting this journey with me this week, I am so glad you are here!
Last week we looked at the story of hope through the lives of Abraham and Sarah. This week’s focus is looking back with eyes of faith at the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Luke 1:26-38.
The Highly Favored – Luke 1:26-28
I heard someone say, “God has wired us for affirmation.” I have seen this truth not only in Scripture, but also in my own life. I believe it is wrapped up in our identity.
When I was a young, stay at home mom, I was sitting at a table with several women for an event with my church. Most of these women were a few years ahead of me in age. As we began introducing ourselves, I encountered the question that is always asked, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” I sheepishly answered, “I’m just a stay at home mom.” This woman, a pastor’s wife, then said to me, “Sharon, don’t say you are ‘just” a stay at home mom. What you are doing is the most important job you could ever have.” That completely shifted my perspective.
Years later, now I’ve come full circle back to staying at home, not as a mom, but as one who is on disability. And again, I’ve struggled with my identity, awkwardly answering the questions, “What do you do?” or “Where do you work?” God has taken me a step further. His affirmation to me: my identity is not in what I do, but in who God is.
The angel, Gabriel, came with just such an affirmation for Mary, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Here is Mary, a very young woman not much more than a girl, a virgin, engaged to be married. God saw her and favored her by His grace. It is what that pastor’s wife gave to me when she affirmed my calling as a stay at home mom, grace.
I find it very interesting, to see the same kind of affirmation was given to Gideon in the Old Testament book of Judges, “Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: The Lord is with you, valiant warrior,” (6:12). Both Mary and Gideon would be called to face a situation that was beyond themselves.
What is even more interesting is that in their ordinary lives, God elevated them, “O favored one,” and “valiant warrior.” Mary was but a young, virgin girl, and Gideon the youngest in his family, who was hiding from the enemy. They were raised up by God’s grace as favored and valiant because of one truth, “The Lord is with you!”
Our identity is not in our accomplishments or lack of them, in our place in our family, our worst failures, our deepest desires, or our careers, but it is in the God who is with us, loves us, and sees us.
The Highly Favored Becomes the Greatly Troubled – Luke 1:29-36
God does not elevate Mary to puff her up and make her feel better about herself, but for a purpose, a calling for her. I believe she senses this, “But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.”
The word Luke used for “greatly troubled,” describes a sense of being thoroughly stirred up, confused and perplexed. It wasn’t everyday that Mary was approached by angel, and this angel came with a very curious greeting. “What does this mean for me?” she is wondering.
At times in our lives we find ourselves feeling what Mary felt. For people that I know and love who have faced some truly troubling times, I have witnessed this deep sense of uncertainty and confusion.
When my dad passed away, my mom was left feeling, “what are we going to do now?” And in my own life about seven years ago, when I was very uncertain about what God was allowing to come into my life when a brain scan came back not very favorably. The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, which has brought me to staying at home, has been a real stirring up for me. What about you? I am sure you could add your own story here.
The angel gave Mary her “diagnosis,” when he told her that “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” She was going to have a baby and not just any baby, but the Son of God! But how, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Mary asked. Not to mention that she was betrothed to Joseph.
Did you catch what Mary said, “Since I am a virgin?” That was her identity, but God takes her a step further. God lays out His plan for Mary in bringing the Savior of the world through a virgin birth. God knows what He is doing. He takes her identity as a virgin, and He is going to use what she sees as a weakness to accomplish His purpose.
When we are asked to do something or walk through something that is beyond us, God gives us assurance. When trials come, seasons of life change, or tragedy strikes, we need to know this: “The Lord is with you!”
The Greatly Troubled is Given Eyes of Faith – Luke 1:37
I feel like I could stop here with this faith-filled statement: “For nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary came to this realization, and I believe this is why God chose her for this assignment.
What is God calling you to? God’s called you to ministry? To missions in Africa? To persevere through disability? Foster parenting? Rely on Him in widowhood? To invite a neighbor over for dinner? To trust Him in a devastating diagnosis? Have faith like Mary and know that nothing will be impossible with God. Allow Him to take your weakness, and use it for His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Speaking Words of Wisdom….Let It Be
“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’”Luke 1:38
Let me assure you with the truths we have learned from God’s Word:
- You are highly favored by His grace.
- The Lord is with you!
- Nothing is impossible, nothing is too hard for God!
- You are a servant of the Lord.
- Say these words, “Let it be to me according to your word.”
Let me add, even if it doesn’t turn out the way you expected or want it to. If Mary can say, “let it be to me,” so can we.
Clarity is Overrated
Mary was given just enough light for her path. There was still the issue of her being pregnant, questions with how Joseph was going to receive this news, how her family would take the news. She was at risk, a very high risk, of her life being ruined.
But the Son of God, whom she would carry in her womb, would carry her through, one step at a time. He will do the same for you and me, giving us just enough light for our next step. Ultimately, it’s not about us or the clarity we want from God. It’s about giving God glory and making much of Jesus even while we are taking one shaky step after another. We walk by faith and not by sight.
Indeed this is a reminder that Christmas is an opportunity to magnify the wonder of Christ—fully human, fully God—born of a virgin to save the world.
Jesus came, Jesus is with us, and Jesus will come again!
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