Thanksgiving week is the perfect kick off to our winter holiday season. It sets the tone with its focus on having a grateful heart for all God has given throughout the year. Fortunately it is the one holiday that commercialism has not ruined. We should now be able to enter the Christmas season with a heart that says I see God’s hand in everything I have been given and in everything I have experienced.
Jack Cavanaugh called that ‘the God factor’ in his morning devotion presented at the writer’s conference. His illustration was taken from Luke’s account of Gabriel visiting Mary with the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Jack showed us Mary’s three reactions to the angel Gabriel. Her first response was fear to the sudden intrusion. She then experienced confusion in the proclamation that she was the chosen one to carry the Messiah. But then her next words showed a strong resolve to obedience as she replied, “May it be so.” What happened to move her from fear and confusion into obedience? It’s what Jack calls the God factor. Gabriel said, “With God all things are possible.” There it is. Simply put, when we add God into the equation, the matter should be settled in our hearts. It no longer matters on the how and why. What the mouth of God speaks, His right arm will do. We are simply to obey. Mary set a perfect example. She accepted His will and praised Him with all her heart. Read Luke 1:26-56.
But there’s more to learn from Mary. For me this is a more valuable lesson because it goes against everything in my human nature. Go with me into the scene. Gabriel tells Mary that her cousin Elizabeth is with child. This prompts Mary to leave immediately to be with her elderly cousin. I see these two ladies meeting and my heart skips a beat as the baby John leaps in his mother’s womb. (This is especially precious to me now as I thrill hearing Tori announce each time baby Eli kicks her.) Zachariah is speechless, literally. So for six months, these two moms-to-be are immersed in their own world full of fear and excitement. The teenager and the elderly miracle sharing morning sickness, swollen feet, and expanding bellies are experiencing the ultimate slumber party. I can hear them each night rehearsing over and over the stories of their babies to be.
It’s accepted by most scholars that Mary stayed to assist Elizabeth during her delivery. I assume she was also present seven days later when they would have the circumcision ceremony where the newborn is named. It’s on this occasion that Zachariah finds his voice again. I love how his tongue breaks the silence with praise to the God who shut him up in the first place. Read Luke 2:57-80 and marvel at what he is saying. I suspect he has spent the past nine months studying the prophecies. Add to that the Spirit’s anointing and Zachariah delivers a stunning message to all family and friends.
But look closer and ‘see’ what’s not recorded. What do Elizabeth and Mary say? Nothing. Zachariah has just announced his baby John to be the forerunner to the Messiah that is to come. These ladies know that in that very room was the Messiah. Jesus was in the womb of Mary and yet they said nothing. I’m afraid I would have blabbed something like, “Yes sir! You said it and I know something you don’t. Right here in this belly is the One we’ve been expecting all these years!” I know I would have because I do it all the time. I hear God speak to my heart and before I allow Him time to perfect it in me, I’m telling everyone who will stand still long enough to listen. It usually starts with, “Guess what God just said to me.” Sometimes I’m afraid it’s pride. But often it’s just immaturity. We can learn a valuable lesson from how Mary waited on the Lord until His will was perfected. Too much was at stake for her to interfere with her own interpretation.
Let’s imagine what might have happened if she would have blabbed. One, she could have been stoned. We don’t know if she was married by this time but telling a story about a angel visiting with the news of the Holy Spirit conceiving within her is not something most people would believe then…or even now.
But let’s say they believed her and coupled with the miracle of John’s birth, the people know the long-awaited Messiah is about to be born among them. My guess is they would’ve taken Mary and drastically changed her life. She may have even been treated like royalty. But most likely the people would not have allowed her to give birth in a manger among the animals. That would not have been acceptable for the future King.
The final scenario would be more like what I and maybe you would have done. We would start out by presenting what God said but then we embellish it each time it’s told. We preconceive the ways for the event to play out. We add our expectations and desires. Before long, the Word no longer matches the story we tell. Human nature will always corrupt purity.
God’s will is never what we expect. Who would have imagined God incarnate would be born to a poor family in a manger among animals? This was not a mistake due to poor vacation planning. God wanted them in Bethlehem, in the city of David, on this day and alone. (I’d like to hear from you on why you believe that was the plan? Please post your ideas. We’ll go deeper on this later.)
But let me now summarize why I think this is important for getting to know our Jesus. When God is involved it will be the impossible made possible. He must do it His way and His way is never our way. Mary shows us the correct response to any Word from God. It begins with a heart of praise and worship willing to obey whatever the cost. But in our obedience, we simply must have control over our flesh. When Jesus is among us, we must yield totally to Him. Allow me a little creative liberty here: Jesus was literally in Mary at the birth of John. Jesus said nothing, so Mary yielded to Him and remained silent as well. Makes me stop my tongue and ponder. What does it do for you?