“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’
“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “’Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end’” (Luke 1: 26-33).
“Mary, Did You Know?” is the title of a Christmas song. The song asks, Mary, did you know that your son would walk on water? Did you know that he would have the power to calm storms? Did you know that he would give sight to the blind? Mary, did you know that he was Messiah, born to be our Savior?
The Gospels are unclear about the extent to which Mary understood. On the one hand, when the wine was running out at the wedding in Cana, Mary told the host to talk to Jesus. He turned water to wine. She seemed to know he had unusual power. On the other hand, the Gospels also tell us that she and his brothers came to talk some sense into him before his work got them all in trouble. She did not seem to fully grasp his mission.
Luke 1 describes the visit of the angel Gabriel. If the culture informs us, Mary was in her early to mid-teens. She had gone to rabbinic school until age 12. She had memorized Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and the Psalms.
She had also been schooled in the traditions and beliefs of the community. Either her hometown was Nazareth or she knew that she would live in Nazareth once her engagement to Joseph became marriage. She would have known that the Shootville community expected the Messiah to come from them.
She knew that the Jewish people of Israel longed for a Messiah who would throw out the Romans and reestablish David’s kingdom.
Then Gabriel visits and speaks. Mary, you have not had sex, but you are pregnant by the spirit of God. Imagine an innocent girl understanding and accepting that news! Mary, your son will sit on David’s throne and reign. His kingdom will last forever.
Given the religious and societal expectations for the Messiah, it is likely that Mary expected her child to establish an earthly throne and kingdom. It is unlikely that she understood that her son was destined for a cross.
Mary was very human. She was preparing to become the wife of Joseph the builder. She was prepared for a traditional life in the little village of Nazareth.
God did not choose the queen to give birth to Jesus, but he chose an ordinary young woman. What good news for each of us! God chooses and uses ordinary people for extraordinary kingdom missions.
Mary, did you know? I don’t think that she did. If she did, she would not have appealed to him to stop what he was doing. If she did, she would not have stood at the cross mourning.
The Roman Catholic Church has deified her as if she were a supernatural being. She wasn’t. Deifying Mary diminishes her amazing faith. Her testimony is an example for us to embrace.
Mary’s place in the Christmas story is our story, too. Most of us are simple, ordinary people who are called to lead and to serve in ways and in places that were unexpected and unforeseen.
May all who are called to lead, when confronted with humanly impossible calls from God, echo her words: “I am the Lord’s servant; may your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38).
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services