The passage from Luke 1:26-38 is the story of the greatest miracle of all. It is a hint of the awesome power of God and how he can use it in our lives if we let him. The virgin birth is a picture of how close Christ will come within us. Mary wondered how she could bear God’s son when she was a virgin, but the angel Gabriel reminded her that it would be possible because of the Holy Spirit.

Was Mary frightened by this change in the plans she had for her life? The Bible doesn’t say, but it is possible that she was frightened. After all, in the Jewish culture of that time, women were seen as being no better than property. To make matters worse, unmarried women who became pregnant were dealt with severely by the religious authorities. Mary is a good example of the kind of response to God’s surprises that we should have in our own lives. Even though God completely turned Mary’s life around, and even though He called her to something that was both wonderful and scary, and even though Mary knew that her life would not be what she expected it to be, she still offered herself to God in faithful, free submission.

The favour of God is worth any discomfort it might involve. God chose Mary to give birth to his son, but she also had to bear the public shame of people not understanding what He was doing through her. We can trust God even in the most difficult of circumstances because no problem is too tough for Him to handle and no challenge is beyond his power to overcome. He has the ability to do what he says he will do.

We have ordinary moments in our lives that do not seem significant by themselves but when weaved together by a heart of obedience they become something wonderful. One day God will ask us to trust Him for something extraordinary. Where will our heart be? Will we be ready to say “yes” to God, even when what He is asking seems impossible? If God can do such a miraculous thing in the life of Mary, just think of the miraculous things he can do in our own lives! All we have to do is take God at his word and expect the miraculous.  God speaks within our hearts, and his word is backed up with his power. If we hear something that we think may be coming from God, there are three ways we can find out if it really is God speaking to us:

  1. His Word
  2. The responsibilities he gives us to care for the less fortunate in society.
  3. Any burden or pain his request causes us.

When we place our faith in Jesus and let him come and live within us-just like Mary let the Holy Spirit work within her-the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and the life of Jesus is born within us.

Like Mary, we may be going through the most difficult time in our lives and still be in the centre of God’s plan. It is possible to live a godly life in an ungodly world. Nazareth was an obscure, wicked city that was known for its sin, and the same can be said of our world today. We, like Mary, are part of God’s plan to carry His light and love to a needy world. Each of us has been given different roles in His plan, but none are unimportant. It might be difficult to see ourselves as being active players in what God is doing in the world. It’s not always easy to say yes to God. Saying yes can mean facing difficulties and persecution, but God always provides the means of sustaining us when we choose obedience to His desires for our lives.

When we present ourselves as God’s servants and are open to hearing what it is God asks of us, we will take our places in a long line of faithful people who have done just that. Then we will find ourselves set free to perform both small acts of care and compassion and large ones. We will be made available for the adventures God has in store for us, for the work He needs us to do and the work He has designed us to do.

Each task fits into God’s scheme-of-things in ways that we cannot yet understand. It matters less that we complete our tasks with expertise than that we complete them with devotion. God desires not the skills of our hands but the love of our hearts. The person who has only the ability to love God and neighbour is all-important in God’s economy. We must remember that favour with God is a double-edged sword. God offers mercy but no life of ease. Our confidence in the Word of God will give us strength just like Mary’s confidence in God’s Word gave her strength. Because her whole identity was wrapped up in the promises of God, she was able to face her crisis with certainty. She gave all the glory to God. She praised God for His grace and mercy. She thanked Him for His favour. She never forgot His faithfulness. If our identity is wrapped up in the promises of God, if we give all glory to God, if we praise God for his faithfulness, and if we thank Him for his favour, we can also face life’s crises with certainty.

The marks of greatness in God’s sight are the same marks of greatness that Jesus showed us-humility, self-sacrifice, total dependence on God and total obedience even unto death. Mary showed these same marks of greatness and she was rewarded by God. The only place of honour in God’s kingdom is the place of service. If we can show the same marks of greatness, and if we show them in faith, God will reward us with the greatest gift anyone can receive, either at Christmas or at any other time of the year-and that gift is the gift of eternal life.

Bibliography

  1. Stanley, Charles F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010)
  2. Steve Arterburn, “In Turbulent Times, Consider the Possibilities”. Retrieved from www.newlife.com
  3. F.B. Meyer, “Our Daily Homily”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  4. Anne Graham Lotz, “Overshadowed by the Spirit”. Retrieved from www.angelministries.org
  5. Dr. Charles Stanley, “Jesus is Lord of All”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  6. Jim Liebelt, “Being Part of God’s Plan”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  7. Kevin H. Grenier, “Crisis Pregnancy”. Retrieved from www.loi.org
  8. Wendy Blight, “Let It Be with Me Just as You Say” Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com.
  9. John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Advent 4, Year B. Retrieved from www.seemslikegod.org
  10. Greg Laurie, “A Lesson from Mary”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
  11. Lucado, Max: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010)
  12. Sarah Dylan Breuer, “Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B”. Retrieved from www.sarahlaughed.net/lectionary/2005/12/fourth_sunday_o.html
  13. Exegesis for Luke 1:26-38. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  14. Dr. Philip McLarty, “A Faithful Response”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.com
  15. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  16. Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  17. ESV Study Bible. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  18. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “God’s Unusual Selection”. Retrieved from www.leadingtheway.org.

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