God has always been near to the lowly and seen those that others ignore and pass by. So when it came time for him to decide on the vessel that would bring his redeeming grace into the world, he looked where nobody else had bothered to look before; to a young Jewish woman named Mary. The time in which Mary lived was not an easy one for women. Their culture saw them as second class citizens, they received no education, they could not own property, and they did not count as a valid witness in court. The first statement Jesus made with his coming was made when Mary became pregnant: “The King of Kings is not coming in a way that you would expect…get ready.”
I mean think about it God could have decided that the Incarnation meant that one day out of the desert came a fully formed grown man ready to start his ministry. Instead he decided to humble himself not just in the form in which he came (a baby) but also in who brought him into the world (a woman.) It’s been said before but it’s important to mention again Mary was an unwed pregnant poor teenager. The people in her community didn’t know what God was doing in her. All they saw was the outside, and I’m sure some of them reacted with gossip and judgment. Just imagine a young women in your community turns up pregnant and tells people that the Holy Spirit came over her and she’s actually still a virgin AND carrying the Savior of the world in her womb. We might not laugh her out of the church, but I bet there would be some laughing behind closed doors.
God using the unexpected for his plans is not the most surprising part of this story. No, that honor goes to Mary herself and the way she reacts to the Angel’s words. “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38) Mary was most likely between 13 or 14 years old when Jesus was born. She was an unmarried pregnant women living in a culture where the consequences of such a thing ranged from being ostracized by her family and community, to abandonment by her fiance, and, if Joseph went public with her actions, death. I try to put myself in her place and I am amazed. Her first reaction is naturally wonder; “How can this be?” But after the angel explains it all to her she immediately says the above quote. That blows me away! I think about the small things God asks me to trust him on and how long I stay in the “how can this be” moment instead of the “may everything you have said about me come true” moment
Accepting God’s plan for her life took tremendous faith and courage. And yet, after a brief moment of confusion Mary reacts with the exact opposite of fear. Her song, The Magnificat, speaks of an overwhelming joy:
A joy that comes from knowing that God saw her in her lowliness.
A joy that comes from knowing her name will be blessed from generation to generation.
A joy that comes from Christ.
We shouldn’t worry about elevating Mary to idol status when we talk about her. What makes her so amazing to me is that she was utterly human. Nowhere in her story does it say that God gave her extra special grace and understanding over the rest of us. No, she had access to the same power and grace that you and I have. It’s what she chose to do with those things that elevates her. In the face of insurmountable odds her words are words of joy. God saw her! Her! A young poor Jewish woman. He saw her and chose her to implement his amazing plan to save the entire world from their sin! Amazing.
In his life and ministry Jesus always saw those the rest of the world chose not to see; the woman with the issue of blood, children, the woman who washed his feet with her hair, the criminals on the cross. Over and over again Jesus looked for those the world had forgotten. He looked for them and lifted them up. He covered them with his love and mercy and prepared them for great things. The kingdom of heaven is full of those who were unseen, and now we see them clearly. I have to believe the preparation for Jesus seeing the unseen in his ministry was begun by being born of one the world didn’t see. From the moment he drew his first breath in that stable Jesus knew what it was to be unseen. And he also knew what happened when the power of God came over the unseen; they did great things.
This Christmas season may I be like Mary. May I expect God to see me right where I am and use me in amazing ways. And when he does, may I, like Mary, express exceeding joy for the good things He has done.
Luke 1:46-51: And Mary responded,“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things!”
*A Note From The Future!!* When my best friend AJ and I sat down to write a worship song based on Mary’s prayer this entry was on my mind. Together we put our feelings about this amazing woman into song. Someday soon we’ll have a recording of it but until then I’m posting a beautiful visual she created with my favorite line from the song on it.