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Archive for the ‘Mother of Jesus’ Category

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No Christmas season would be complete without the reading of the second chapter of Luke—the account of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem, presiding over the birth of Jesus in a stable or cave, and receiving shepherd-guests.

Toward the end of the account, as those shepherds were spreading the word of Jesus’ birth, Luke wrote, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v. 19).

Indeed. She had much to process:

  • Her baby was the Messiah, the Promised One, who would save his people from their sin. I wonder if she studied him, looking for signs that he was different from other infants.
  • This was the Prince of Peace cradled in her arms. Yet he had been born to a common village girl in very primitive conditions.  Did that seem strange to her?
  • The shepherds had learned of his birth when angels visited them, just as the angel, Gabriel, had visited Mary and then Joseph.  Gabriel had also visited Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. Four angel visitations in a matter of months. Never had that happened before.

I find myself pondering, too—pondering Mary herself–this dear, young girl who carried a tremendous burden for a long time.

Dear means beloved and valued. Mary is certainly that for numerous reasons.

  • She embraced Gabriel’s announcement with great faith. “May it be to me as you have said,” (Luke 1:38). She put herself in the care of God in spite of incomprehensible circumstances.
  • Her prayer, the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), gives indication of a heart fully committed to God.
  • She endured much: shame for her pregnancy, a long, uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem, and crude circumstances for the birth of her Son.

Mary was young—perhaps between thirteen and fifteen years of age. That was the typical age for a girl to be married in Bible times.

Yet, young as Mary was, Gabriel praised her for being “endued with grace” (v. 28, AMP). In addition, Mary demonstrated stamina, maturity, and gentleness beyond her years, in dire circumstances. No doubt God graced her with these traits. But I have to believe Mary also had freedom of choice, as we all do, to embrace God’s way for her.

But what I ponder most about Mary is the fact she carried a tremendous burden, given to her by an elderly man, Simeon, eight days after Jesus was born.

You undoubtedly remember the story. Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the temple at Jerusalem to be circumcised. There they met the righteous and devout Simeon who had been waiting decades for the Messiah. The Holy Spirit had revealed to him he would not die until he had seen the Lord Christ.

Immediately upon seeing the child, Simeon knew this was the One. He praised God for keeping his promise, blessed Mary and Joseph, and then spoke particularly to Mary, saying Jesus would cause some to rise and some to fall, and the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed.

Simeon’s last words must have caused Mary’s eyes to grow wide and her heart to skip a beat: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:21-35).

What?! Wasn’t the worst behind her? Surely Mary wanted to ask Simeon, “What do you mean?” Scripture gives us no indication that she did so. Perhaps Simeon walked away, leaving the stunned couple to stand speechless there in the temple court.

For thirty-three years those last words of Simeon must have echoed in Mary’s mind again and again. How does a person live with such long-term foreboding? Perhaps her mind turned back to the night of Gabriel’s visitation. Perhaps, for thirty-three years, Mary repeated what she had told the archangel: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (1:38).

Mary may very well have developed the calm assurance that even when God’s ways are baffling, we can rest assured he is orchestrating events to accomplish far more than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20). She had been witness to such orchestration in Bethlehem.

Mary knew that even our personal hardships can fulfill purposes that extend far beyond ourselves.

That’s a lesson for all of us to embrace with calm assurance.

 

(Art credit:  www.seekerville.blogspot.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Can you remember the first time you studied a snowflake under a magnifying glass? What was your reaction to those delicate intricacies of pattern?

Or how about your first glimpse through a microscope at a drop of pond water? Suddenly you were viewing infinitesimal, squiggly creatures you never knew existed. Chances are your responses included “Wow!” “Look at that!” “I can’t believe it!”

And perhaps that’s when you learned: Only when we examine something closely can we begin to appreciate its value.

Like our Heavenly Father.

Scripture urges us to “magnify” God: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Psalm 34:3, KJV, RSV).

To magnify God is to look closely at Him and take careful notice of his actions and attributes. Mary did exactly that, when she visited her cousin, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was much older than Mary, well beyond child-bearing age. But like Sarah of the Old Testament, God had intervened for her. Elizabeth would be the mother of John the Baptist.

When Marry first arrived and greeted her cousin, Baby John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. (I’m not exaggerating. That’s the exact word in Luke 1:41, NIV. Can you imagine how it would feel to have a baby jump inside you?)

Elizabeth responded with a blessing for Mary and the baby she carried. Mary was so overcome with joy and incredulity, she burst into praise. Her song is called the Magnificat. (See Luke 1:39-45 for more details.)

For ten verses, Mary magnifies the Lord, examining the reason for her joy (vs. 46-49) and looking closely at God’s attributes and actions (50-55) that contribute to her joy. If your Bible includes cross references you’ll notice that Mary recites a varied collection of verses from the psalms, specifically from chapters 34, 138, 71, 103, 98, and 132.

Take note: that’s six psalms. It would seem she chose appropriate thoughts, and wove them together into this beautiful prayer. On the spot, no less! Dare I suggest that Mary was a highly intelligent young woman?

Such an ability would also indicate Mary grew up in a godly home where scripture was highly esteemed. Her family evidently took to heart the words of Psalm 1:2, “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

Full of emotion, Mary rejoiced in God, her Savior. He had been mindful of her, a humble peasant girl. God had blessed her beyond imagining, to be the mother of the Messiah.

Then Mary itemized specific ways God had benefited all his people:

• He extends mercy to those who reverence him (v. 50)
• He has performed mighty deeds (v. 51)
• He has scattered the proud (v. 51)
• He has brought down rulers, but lifted up the humble (v. 52)
• He has filled the hungry, but sent the rich away empty (v. 53)
• He has been merciful to Israel (vs. 54-55)

Has God been at work in your life, perhaps in similar ways? Has God been mindful of you and blessed you (v. 48)? What great things has He done for you (v. 49)? Has his mercy been extended to you (v. 50)?

View the activity of God in your life through the magnifying glass of meditation.

Feel free to comment below, and share with us your observations!

Here’s another idea to consider: as a Christmas gift to your Savior, write a Magnificat of your own.

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The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur, an exam...

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur, an example of 17th century Marian art. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Imagine a young woman, engaged to be married. Her mind is occupied with a long to-do list that includes preparations for the wedding, and for the new home she’ll create with her husband.

Husband. Just thinking about him sends her mind floating to dreams for the future. And all her plans and dreams rise and fall over hills of emotion: great excitement in the new adventure to come, yet melancholy, too, because life-as-it’s-always-been will soon be no more.

Surely Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have been thinking similar thoughts as she planned and prepared for her wedding and married life, just like any other bride.

Now imagine her surprise when the angel, Gabriel, appeared to her. The Bible tells us that as Gabriel spoke, Mary was greatly troubled (Luke 1:19). I like Eugene Peterson’s choice of words: “She was thoroughly shaken” (The Message).

Do you suppose Mary jumped at the sound of his voice? Did her eyes grew wide and her hand clap over her mouth? Might she have taken in a quick gasp of air as her heart began to pound?

Gabriel hurried on to explain God’s plan for her—so radically different from the plans she and Joseph were making. Mary was no doubt envisioning a small wedding (after all, they were not wealthy), and settling down to a quiet life in Nazareth. Little did she know that a trip to Bethlehem was in her future—during her ninth month of pregnancy no less.

Mary had been chosen by God to bear the Messiah! The Jews had been waiting centuries for this event. God could have chosen any time or any place for the birth of his Son. He could have named any woman to be the mother of Jesus. He chose Mary, a small-village girl. No wealth, no sophistication, no influence. Did Mary’s cheeks burn with modesty, to be selected for such a monumental privilege?

Yet the magnitude of this honor quickly gave way to practical matters. She asked Gabriel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin” (v. 34)?

Gabriel explained as best he could. I wonder if God the Father had given him explicit instructions about what to say. After all, he was trying to explain cosmic, miraculous, humanly impossible events.

And Mary stood on the precipice of eternity, facing a decision with eternal consequences. Which way would she choose?

She could have said, “Oh, no, Sir. This cannot be. I am not qualified. Such a responsibility is much too frightening even to consider! Please choose someone else.” A very logical answer, right?

But instead, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38).

Perhaps it was Gabriel’s last words that gave her such boldness. “For nothing is impossible with God” (v. 37). Did the numerous miracles of the Old Testament whisk through her mind, as proof of Gabriel’s words?

Might it be, as Gabriel began to relate what would happen, that the Holy Spirit came upon her right then? And the power of the Most High overshadowed her (v. 35) even as Gabriel spoke? Perhaps, at that very moment, the presence and empowerment of God rushed into Mary’s mind and heart.

We won’t know this side of heaven. But I do know is this:

In her defining moment, young Mary exemplified the epitome of innocent trust in God and unfaltering obedience.

Oh, Father, I want to trust you with pure abandon, just as Mary did. Too often I fret about consequences.

I want to live out your plan, in the place you have chosen, at the selected time, just as Mary did. Too often I’m in a hurry and want things to happen here and now.

And like Mary, I want to stand strong on the edge of eternity, with my arms spread wide, and jump into the abyss of your plan—confident in the knowledge that you will carry me on eagles’ wings (Exodus 19:4).

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