Mary Said Yes

Our text at church on this final Sunday of Advent (how quickly even the long-ness of waiting can go!) was from Luke 1: 26-38. The angel Gabriel visits Mary and says, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you" (verse 28, TNIV).

This in itself is shocking. We have no biblical account of angels showing up since the days of Daniel. Nearly every time an angel does appear to someone, their response is fear. Angels aren't cutesy beings--they are awe-inspiring and fear-inducing. So when one appears to a lowly teenage girl from the streets of Nazareth, we can assume Mary was probably a bit frightened.

And to have an angel tell you that you are highly favored, one can understand why Mary would be "greatly troubled at his words" (v. 29, TNIV) and wonder what this means. She's got to be thinking, "Uh, oh, this can't be good...what does God have up His sleeves now?"

And then Gabriel tells her that even though she's a virgin, she's going to have a child. Not just any child. Mary is to become the mother of "the Son of the Most High" (v. 32). He will sit on David's throne, ruling over the house of Jacob for all eternity. Mary knows that the angel is referring to the Messiah: the Savior whom the Scriptures foretold would come, bringing a kingdom of justice and righteousness.

So here's an unwed teenage girl, being told that God would like her to become the mother of His Son--the Anointed Saving King. There's a lot of pressure in knowing that. There are a lot of feelings of inadequacy. There is fear, confusion and probably even denial going on.

Mary can turn her back on the angel and say, "No way! I'm not worthy and I'm certainly not ready for that to happen." She has that option. But she is open to God's will. So she asks how all this can be possible since she has never slept with a man.

So the angel tells her that it will come about through the Holy Spirit. As evidence that the miraculous can happen, Gabriel tells Mary that her elderly cousin is beginning her third trimester of pregnancy. He assures Mary that what ever God says will happen won't fail.

So Mary, clearly full of humility for a teenager, simply says, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me according to your word." Clearly, there is something special about this girl.

But even saying yes to God does not mean things will be easy...or perfect. An unwed mother faced stoning at the worst; at the very least shunning and life-long ridicule for her son. Saying yes could have meant death. But she does it anyway.

Mary doesn't know what lies ahead. She doesn't know that she'll be alone with only Joseph in a unfamiliar city when the labor pains hit. She doesn't know that she'll give birth in a barn, surrounded by livestock and their manure. She doesn't know that her family will have to flee to a foreign land as essentially illegal immigrants in order to escape Herod's murderous plot against baby boys. She doesn't know that she will see her son beaten and killed in the most cruel fashion. It is not an easy road that lies ahead of Mary. She may have been better off saying "no".

But she said yes. And the world was changed because of her decision. And despite all the trials and hardships, I believe Mary--one who treasured and pondered things in her heart--would say that she lived a good life. Not a safe life, but a good life.

May I be willing to say yes to God as well.

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