I really wish we had the ability to record video at our Berea Heights campus because Pastor Paul Fleming’s sermon this past Sunday was worth sharing. It has prompted conversations in my home all week long. I know that Paul focused on the angels from the Christmas story and what each taught us, but what has really occupied my thoughts was Mary.
In Luke’s account of the Gospel, we find a young girl (likely 15 or 16 years old), a virgin, who is addressed by the angel Gabriel. She is told that, as a virgin, she will give birth to the Son of God. Her humble response was, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” – Luke 1:38
I think that, in our current society, we overlook how significant this is. Today, we often see girls getting pregnant out of wedlock. In Mary’s day though, this was a death sentence. First, she was not married yet. Premarital sex was considered a sin worthy of being stoned. Second, she was betrothed to Joseph. Unlike today, being engaged meant that she would commit adultery, another capital offense, by cheating on him. Third, as Paul Fleming pointed out, it had been four hundred years since anyone had heard from God.
Mary, facing an angel, first confirmed that it was indeed God’s will by asking how it would be possible. Her question carried the weight of her commitments to God and her husband that she did not intend to sin against either one. The brevity of her conversation with Gabriel leads me to believe that his appearance made it clear that he was not human. Mary questioning him tells me that she was versed enough in the scriptures to know that Satan and the demons were also angels and could appear as Gabriel did. Gabriel’s answer was the only one that could be possible, God would have to do it, since Mary was not going to betray her husband.
In this exchange, Mary demonstrates a maturity of personal and spiritual character that seems beyond her years. She also shows a level of obedience that challenges each of us as believers. This is a response that is equivalent to Daniel in the lions den or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at the furnace. Knowing that the world would try to kill her, Mary still chose to obey God.
If asked, would you willingly stand on a street corner in Iran and loudly declare the gospel? Would you hesitate? How many times would you put out the fleece before answering the call to do so?
During this season, let’s examine our own answer to the call in our lives. The call may be to go to Iran or some other country that is actively killing Christians. But it may be to offer some Christmas cheer to your neighbor who is lonely or serve a meal at the local soup kitchen. No matter how small it may seem, God has a plan that includes you. Failing to do your part will not cause God’s plan to fail, but it does rob you of the blessings that come from obedience. It also robs those you are called to witness and serve of the gift you were given for that purpose.