“How my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For He took notice of His lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.”
These are Mary’s words shared in Luke 1:46-49. She was a young girl, probably 15 or 16 years old, and she was ready to marry a man who was righteous and good. These are Mary’s words after the Angel of the Lord came to her one night, a night that otherwise would have been like any other. Maybe she was cleaning after dinner. Maybe she was changing into her clothes for bed. A night like all she had experienced in the past, but one that would change the future- not just for Mary, but for the entire existence of all humanity for the remainder of time. These were Mary’s words after she found out that she was chosen by God to be the mother to God incarnate- the Savior of the World and the Messiah that Israel and all creation had been waiting for. Mary didn’t ask about Joseph or her future plans. She didn’t show concern about her parenting abilities or about what others would think about her “situation.”
I imagine she was afraid. And it is possible thoughts about her ability to mother the Savior or concern for her reputation or the reputation of Joseph came into her mind. But if they did, she did not entertain them. She was sold out in steadfast trust that God knew what He was doing, even in choosing her. Overwhelmed with the weight of God’s favor and the honor of the role He gave her, Mary’s spirit rejoiced within her. Because of what she knew to true about Her God, joy won out over every other thought or feeling.
How I wish I could be more like Mary. How I wish that my gut level response would always be to rejoice. Unfortunately I tend to live in the tension between joy and fear, joy and worry, joy and sadness. I have joy because I know who holds the plan for life and the eternity that waits for me. Yet I worry about the very things that Mary laid down before God: Am I a good enough mother? Do I represent the Savior of the World in the way He deserves? What do others think of me? What about my future, what’s going to happen… what is God going to ask me to do, give up, lay down?
Our response to the will of God in our lives is a direct result of the desires of our hearts. I struggle too often with desiring my way, my happiness, my comfort over God’s will and as a result my joy takes a direct hit. Grumbling replaces rejoicing and questions of hesitation replace surrender. Yet even at a young age Mary knew the key to joy in the Lord. “The Mighty One is holy, and He has done great things for me.”
When we consider who God is and where He has worked in our lives we can worship Him with joy in all circumstances. The most direct way to cut the tension between joy and fear or worry or sadness is through remembering what He has done for us and to praise Him for it. God is faithful and never changing. His love is constant and steadfast. He sent His only Son, who willingly left Heaven to be born in flesh and bone, for the sole purpose of dying an unimaginable death to forgive a debt He didn’t owe… He has done great things for me. He took a broken, mess of a girl who longed for value and unconditional love, picked her up, gave her a family, saved her soul, heart and mind, and chose her to serve others in Jesus name… He has done great things for me. He gave me a home when I was homeless, a father when I didn’t have one, healing when I was wounded, and forgiveness when I rebelled… He has done great things for me.
I know many of you are hurting deeply. Some of you are facing this holiday season without someone you love, without a home, without certainty of a paycheck. Some are struggling with the same internal tension I all too often experience. Because God chose Mary, and because Jesus chose us, we have the joy that only comes with the assurance that God is with us. Christmas Day is when all of God’s joy zeroes in on the world through a baby in a manger. With His birth our future is sealed:
“And through your faith, God is protecting you by His power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while…you love Him even though you have never seen Him. Though you do not see Him now, you trust Him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:5-6, 8-9)
My prayer for all of us is that we take time in the next two weeks to reflect on the joy that comes with Immanuel-God with us-and all He has done in our lives. I pray that you can see His love through your tears, His faithfulness through your fears, and His plan through your worry. Let our words echo Mary’s and rejoice together in God’s favor on us as He chose each one of us to be His own.