A pregnant teenage girl isn’t usually someone I’d hold up as an ideal role model for women. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a different story, however.
This Christmas my eyes were opened to her in a new way. The focus of Christmas, and rightly so, is usually on baby Jesus in the manger. He’s the main event- our Savior. Without Him and His selfless act, there would be no Christmas. No salvation. No hope.
So I’ve never really given Mary a lot of thought. This year, though, she seemed to keep popping up- in podcasts, Christmas pageants, and devotionals. I was struck by her life and her reactions. If we study them there are great truths for all of us as we prepare to end a difficult, rocky year and look forward to the future.
Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God. If you stop and think about that fact for a while, it boggles the mind. At least, it does mine. She, of all the women in the world, was specially selected by God to carry His son.
While we don’t know much about Mary, we do know she was young. I did some research and biblical historians believe she could have been as young as twelve or thirteen, based on the traditions of the time. Girls were betrothed very, very early.
We also know that she was from a poor background. Later in Scripture when Joseph and Mary came to the temple to complete Mary’s purification rituals, they brought turtle doves or pigeons. Those were the approved sacrifices for people who couldn’t afford a lamb. Mary would have been engaged to a man of similar financial station to herself, so we can assume she was from a family that didn’t have much money.
The Bible never tells us if Mary was pretty, highly intelligent, or in any other way remarkable. So what made God favor a young, poor, average girl for the highest honor any woman would ever receive?
I think the answer is found here- in her response. Imagine the shock Mary would have received when an angel appeared before her. One minute she’s going about her daily tasks, with no idea that this day will be different from any other, and then- BAM! Gabriel, who “stands in the presence of God” (Luke 1:18) is now standing in front of Mary, giving her some… really startling news.
An unwed pregnancy during biblical times had the potential to shatter Mary’s life. Her engagement was threatened. Public shame was a real possibility. Rejection from family and friends, potential outcast, pushed away from everything she knew and loved-
This was what Mary faced.
However, Mary never reflects fear, uncertainty, or horror. Aside from the pretty obvious question regarding the possibility of pregnancy when she was still a virgin, her response seemed to be one of total trust and quiet acquiescence.
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Wow. Would you have responded that way? I know I wouldn’t have. I think I probably would have become hysterical and immediately started trying to bargain with God, asking Him to choose someone else to do the task, because there was no way I was up to it.
Her relationship with God:
But that leads us to the next thing I learned about Mary- her relationship with God ran deep. Luke 1:30 tells us Mary found favor with God. Clearly, she had been seeking Him and doing her best to follow Him long before all of this came about.
This was also shown in Mary’s song of worship. After she received her news, Mary she made a long trip to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was in the midst of her own miraculous pregnancy, also revealed by the angel Gabriel. The two women, honored by God and caught in mysterious, heavenly circumstances, were able to celebrate together.
Mary sings with joy about what God has done for her, sprinkling her song with Old Testament scripture references. Her song shows a surprising understanding of scripture at a time when girls were barely educated.
Certainly, Mary’s gracious response to her situation came from her relationship with God, which was rooted in Scripture and the truth of who He is.
What does this mean for us?
While I do not believe that it’s right to worship or venerate Mary, I do believe we can learn a great deal from her life. I can say with certainty that none of us will ever be called on to carry God’s child, but we will all be asked to walk paths that may seem too hard. When that happens, we can cry, shut down, worry, or become angry.
Or we can take a page from Mary’s book.
- Root yourself in scripture before hard times come
- Trust God implicitly
- Learn to accept everything He gives or takes
- Say “yes” to God’s plan for your life
- Find a way to worship in all circumstances
And may we be able to say with Mary and Elizabeth, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:45)
This week, as we wrap up one year and anticipate the new one, I’m thankful for the example of godly women in scripture. May we learn to respond to life’s challenges the way they did. This week, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!