“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. (Luke 1:38)
She was young, since the word used to describe her as a virgin referred to a girl of 14 or under. She was already betrothed, which in those days meant a commitment as binding as marriage. She was from a small, obscure town in the hill country far from Jerusalem, and not part of a prominent family. Mary came from a very ordinary life into the most extraordinary calling imaginable.
No wonder she was alarmed when Gabriel approached her with the announcement that she was “highly favored.” She had absolutely no status in anyone’s eyes; why was this strange man talking to her, and what could he possibly want?
His next words both addressed Mary’s fear and assured her that she had a special place in God’s heart. As Gabriel told her God’s plan for her, her astonishment must have been profound. On a purely practical level, it begged the question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
As Gabriel explained how she would become the mother of God’s Son, the full implications of this news must have sunk in like a lead weight. She, a virgin, would nevertheless become pregnant. She was pledged to Joseph, and her pregnancy would be regarded as adultery. He would break off their betrothal, in effect divorcing her. There would be no other “father” for her child who would come forward to marry her. She would be disgraced, regarded by many as no better than a prostitute. She might even be stoned.
Knowing all this, what was her response?
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
If I wanted an example of a stark choice between the world and God, here it is. Fully aware of the repercussions, Mary made a clear and unequivocal choice to serve God. She chose faith in Him over fear of what would happen to her. She sought God’s favor over public opinion; honoring His words to her over the words of rejection and reproach that would surely come from those around her. What a heart for God, and what a validation of His choice of the mother of His Son.
As I go dashing through the snow, I’m asking God to help me to have more of a “Mary” Christmas: more thought for Him than for man-made traditions; for what people may expect or even demand of me; for what I have demanded from myself in a misguided quest to “make Christmas happen.” I pray to be in reverent awe at the fact that, because of Mary’s willingness to bear the Son of God, and His willingness to die for me, I too have Jesus living in me through His Holy Spirit. And that’s not just for nine months, but always. I pray that my heart will respond to whatever God asks of me with the same unquestioning, courageous and profound faith that was Mary’s. I pray for a servant’s heart, for some genuine Mary in my Christmas.
I pray that you, too, will have a Mary Christmas this and every year.