This Christmas season I have been spending time thinking about Mary, Jesus’ mother. We don’t have a lot of details about her life other than the few offered to us in the Gospels. Here is a sampling.
- Mary learns from God she will have a child, Jesus.
- She utters some of the most magnificent words in scripture in Luke 1 known as the Magnificat.
- Gives birth to Jesus in Bethlehem.
- Is visited by gentiles (shepherds).
- Flees to Egypt to escape King Herod’s order to kill males age 2 and under.
- Takes Jesus to the temple to be circumsized and learns a sword will pierce her soul, which alludes to the coming suffering of her son.
- Is frantic when Jesus is left behind at the temple as a young boy.
- Was on the receiving end of public ridicule when a crowd said, “That is just Mary’s son.”
- Tells Jesus wine is running out at a wedding.
- Is present when Jesus is crucified.
Clearly Mary’s life was not easy and was filled with both extraordinary joy and overwhelming grief and sadness. But through it all, Mary persisted through what was tough and thrived and rose to the occasion when needed.
Mary understood some things that sustained her in the midst of the good and the bad. Mary knew she was loved by God, was created by God, mattered profoundly to God, and that God was working through her life moment to moment in the midst of whatever was happening.
I believe what was true for Mary is also true for each of us. Our lives, each of them, are incredibly important to God. God loves us, gives us life, we matter profoundly to God, and God indeed is working through our lives moment to moment. Verse after verse in scripture reflects these truths. If we can learn to trust these four things, we will find ourselves sustained and peace-filled through all of life’s ups and downs.
As we move into 2019 in the coming days, I invite you to join me in praying about each of these four points and what God might have to say to us through them. I pray that each of us will find strength and gratitude from them. And as we close 2018, please know what a blessing it is to be among you as together we continue doing Christ’s work. Love and peace.
There is a song written some time ago titled, “Mary Did You Know.” Here is a sample of the lyrics. “Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water? Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you have delivered will soon deliver you.”
I think the song is beautiful and it has become somewhat of a classic. But the questions raised by the lyrics are answered in Luke’s Gospel. We learn through the Gospel of Luke that Mary did indeed know that the child growing within was very special and one of a kind.
God told her she would bear a child that would change everything and direct the course of history. Indeed this has been the case. While Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection tell us that God’s spirit is ever present, we are forgiven, we need not live alone on our on our own power, death is nothing to fear, and eternity beyond description awaits each of us, there is something else to remember from Mary and her life.
As far as we know, Mary lived on the margins, was poor, and certainly had little if any influence of the forces affecting her life. But one day God made a decision to come into the world, into a very messy world, into the life of a very ordinary person, in order to initiate a new covenant, a new understanding, a new way of doing things with human kind. When God did so, his message to Mary was clear and powerful.
In essence, when Mary birthed Jesus, God was telling Mary the following. “I love you Mary. I created you. You matter profoundly to me. And I have something very special for you to do.” Mary understood these things which is why she broke out in song, “Oh how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
While this was Mary’s story, I believe this Christmas it is important to remember it is our story as well. Although we will not give birth to the Savior of humankind, by coming into the world as God did, God’s message to each of us is the same one Mary understood. God says to each of us, “I love you. I created you. You profoundly matter to me. And I have very special things for you to do on my behalf.”
Knowing, believing and trusting these things transformed Mary’s life and enabled her to endure through pain and thrive when things were going well. Knowing she was loved, mattered, and had a Godly purpose sustained her through the ups and downs of life. And I believe the very same is the case for you and for me.
Regardless of our lot in life or what we have done or where we are in our faith journey, God loves us, created us, we matter profoundly to God, and God has things for each of us to do day in and day out for God. l I invite you to join me in praying about this truth because when we embrace it, it changes not only how we live, but how we overcome.