This time of year I often find myself reflecting on Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here was a very young woman, simply living, when God interrupted the trajectory of her life – her plan – with an unimaginable announcement. It’s hard to conceive what she must have thought. How she handled it all, and at such a young age? Was her attitude immediately excited expectation? Or anxious trepidation?
Can you relate at all in your life? Has God ever hijacked your plans? Your ideas of what your life was going to look like? I know I can.
Three things stand out to me about Mary’s story. Things that helped give Mary the strength to handle what was happening to her, and that can help us when the unexpected happens, when our lives are interrupted, when the inconceivable takes place:
First, Mary believed God.
And coming in, [the angel Gabriel] said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”
Let us not miss the importance of the historical context here. God had not spoken to anyone in 400 years! Then within 6 months He spoke to Zechariah, and now to Mary. This was a monumental moment in history happening to this young, seemingly ordinary young girl.
Did you catch the fact that Mary was perplexed at the angel’s greeting? Favored one? The Lord is with me? Me?? It makes me wonder if she turned to see if he was talking to someone else. But then Gabriel called her by name and told her she had found favor with God.
Then he proceeded to tell her this miraculous thing was going to happen to her and that SHE would mother the SON of GOD! I mean, that is not small news!!!
38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
When I read what God says to me in His word about who I am, when I read what He has called me to be and do, when I feel His calling in a specific place and His assurance that He will equip me, I am not usually so quick to say “let it be done to me according to your word”
I wrestle…I fight…I doubt.
Let us hear a small example of what God says about you and me:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9
Do we believe it? Mary may not have felt like a favored one. I’m quite sure that she felt she had done nothing to deserve such a title. But God said it, and she chose to believe it, and it gave her the strength and the purpose to carry out the task that God gave her.
From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
So it is with us. We may not feel like we are chosen, royal, holy, loved. But if we are in Christ this is what God says about us. Not because of anything we have done, but because of what HE has done through Jesus. Will we choose to believe as Mary did?
Second, Mary was encouraged
Mary was profoundly affected by the encouragement and exhortation of someone close to her.
Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, who had been barren, was also expecting a child (who happened to be a pretty important kid as well!). When the angel told Mary this, she hurried to see Elizabeth and found her ready to explode with blessings!
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Oh, how we need this in our lives, dear friends! How we need to come along side each other and bless each other and encourage each other in what the Lord has spoken to us! What strength and courage we find when we call out the goodness of God in one another!
Third, Mary worshiped
Mary’s response to God’s call on her life – in believing what God had said about her, and after being encouraged by Elizabeth – was to worship.
In Luke 1:46-55 we find Mary’s response, which is actually called The Magnificat, or the magnification. In Mary’s response to God, she magnified Him.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Do I magnify the Lord in my life? What does that mean?
Magnification is the process of enlarging something only in appearance, not in physical size.
Typically magnification is related to scaling up visuals or images to be able to see more detail, increasing resolution, using microscope, printing techniques, or digital processing. In all cases, the magnification of the image does not change the perspective of the image. – Wikipedia
When we magnify the Lord, we don’t change His actual size or strength or character, but we enlarge the appearance of these things! We increase the detail, the resolution that we see when we look at Him. And when we do this, others can also see more clearly, with greater resolution, the greatness of our God. Magnifying the Lord is not only something we do alone in our quiet times, but something we should do together.
O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.
Because God has done great things for us, and He has sent His Son to bring us back to Him, and He has given us His righteousness, and filled us with His Spirit, and given us an inheritance that we have not earned, we should magnify the Lord. Just as Elizabeth and Mary did. John Piper said, “The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary—people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.” Amen!
This Christmas season, let us follow the example of Mary. Let us believe what God has said about us and step into the life He has called us to live. Let us encourage and be encouraged by our brothers and sisters in Christ. And let us magnify the Lord together as we reflect on His amazing love for us!