“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Let’s prepare to dive in
As we dive into Scripture, it is important that we understand the culture. I have been learning more about the culture of the Middle East in the first century, and this learning has blown the Bible wide open. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas, I think now is the time to truly understand how difficult Mary’s response was. The culture of Jesus was a culture of honor/shame, a culture of hospitality, and a culture of community. Today, the Middle East can be defined in the same way. These three points of their culture are significant to help us understand the magnitude of Mary’s yes.
The hardest yes
Saying yes to birthing Jesus means Mary is saying yes to bringing shame on her entire family. She is an unmarried, teenage girl. Saying yes could result in Mary’s death. There were laws against such immoral acts, laws often enforced. We focus on the message Gabriel speaks, but rarely have I considered its implications. An unwed, but engaged, woman becoming pregnant was not about only Mary. Shame would be heaped on her family, and on Joseph. Joseph could have divorced Mary, or have had her stoned. But a visit from an angel changes Joseph’s mind. Still, the risk of incredible shame remains. Not once does the angel Gabriel offer clarity or reassurance. He does not say the coming child will be welcomed. Gabriel never reveals whether Joseph and his family will be accepted in society, a society that emphasized community. The shame of one meant the shame of many.
Mary says yes to the immaculate conception, in spite of the many unknowns, then flees. Mary packs in a hurry because no one will understand. She heads south, to Judea, with so much uncertainty. In the arms of her cousin Elizabeth, Mary finds peace and comfort. Mary’s community will not understand, but Elizabeth? Elizabeth knows there is a bigger purpose, a purpose worth rejoicing over. Even after her return, after the birth of Jesus, Mary would have lived with the cultural stigma. Illegitimate. Son of God? Sure, Mary. People may never have believed her, and the Pharisees would later mock Jesus (see John 8:41). Mary said yes in full faith, not in full knowledge of the future. Without clarity, without reassurance, Mary responds, “Yes, let it be as you say.”
How will you respond?
There is a call on your life. God has a plan and a purpose for you. You and I will be asked to walk in full faith, without having a well laid-out plan. We must choose what our answer will be. Are we willing to lay everything — our family, our dreams, our goals, our own vision — on the altar of sacrifice to say “yes” to God’s calling? Will we say “yes” when even those close to us do not understand? Are we willing to speak and share the messages we have been given to share in spite of how they may be received? Some people will not like it, and not everyone will support us. Are you willing to risk what you know for what God has for you?
How to say yes when our minds shout no
Friend, I would love to tell you stepping out in faith, and saying “yes” to the calling God has for you, will be easy. But I would be lying a big ugly lie. It is not always easy. How do we say yes in spite of ourselves and our doubts?
- Be grounded in Truth. The more time we spend in Scripture, the more we will know God’s faithfulness. His promises are always kept, and He is always faithful. We can trust Him completely, even in the unknown.
- Seek wise counsel. Not all good advice is godly advice. When facing a decision, having a mature Christian friend to walk with us through the decision making process can be valuable. Keep in mind, even wise spiritual mentors can be wrong. But, having them pray for you is always a good idea.
- Remember what He has done. As I have discovered what God’s calling for me is, I have encountered a multitude of doubts and fears. At these times, I have to step back, take a deep breath, and remember times God has shown up in my life. Remembering times He has been faithful, times He moved mountains on my behalf, reminds me I can trust Him. These moments of remembrance lead to moments of rejoicing. Rejoicing in who He is builds my faith, and spurs me into an attitude of “Yes, Lord, let it be as you have said!”
Have you been hesitating to speak your “yes” to the Father? I want to encourage you, friend. The One who is calling you, who is asking you to lay your own plans down in order to take up His, is faithful. You can trust Him to lead you, to guide you. No, you will not escape hard circumstances. But the blessing of obedience far outweighs any sacrifice we may make. As you celebrate Christmas, consider the burden of Mary’s “yes,” then begin to speak your own.