For the next three weeks, leading up to Christmas, we are going to focus on just one woman of the Bible. I think it's really appropriate for us to study Mary in this season, and there is so much for us to learn from her -- we could study her even longer!
Mary has been held up as the model of motherhood. Her love and faithfulness, her willingness to serve God . . . we would do well to imitate her, no? But why did God go to a tiny town called Nazareth? We read in the Bible that Nazareth was not highly thought of. It was a small town, kinda off the beaten path. The nearby city of Sepphora was much more highly thought of - I guess that was where the action was. Probably when the kids from Nazareth were growing up, they cast longing glances toward Sepphora and said that was where they were going, when they could!
Nazareth was an agricultural town, so perhaps that is all that folks meant; it was small, rural, nothing remarkable about it. Or Nazareth could have had a reputation -- perhaps not very moral or religious.
At any rate, God chose Nazareth, because it was there that Mary lived. A girl who was barely a teenager, who lived in a small, humble cottage. He chose her to be the mother of Jesus. And He told her that she was highly favored by God.
What was it in Mary that caught the attention of our creator? Let's read first the 26-28th verses of Luke, chapter 1:
We are not told directly (no bullet points or anything) what caused her to be chosen, or exactly why she was "highly favored," but we can see some reasons if we study her further.
One reason she was highly favored was because she had the right outlook -- the right perspective on life. Nowadays we'd say she had the right worldview.
What do you think this teen was thinking when Gabriel tapped her on the shoulder? I would think that being visited by an angel would be not only exhilarating, but terrifying! She was probably frightened, and then possibly on edge, thinking about what the message was . . .
After all, she was engaged at the time to Joseph. An older man, he was a solid, respectable and godly member of the Nazareth community. Engagements at the time were a lot more serious than they are today. Guys and gals today get engaged and "un-engaged" so swiftly it can make your head spin. They sometimes regard it as rather inconsequential -- and then those are sometimes the ones whose marriages also end pretty easily. But in Mary's time, things were different. An engaged woman could not be divorced without a "bill" of divorcement, and if she was suspected of unfaithfulness, she could be divorced or even put to death. If her fiancee died, she was considered a widow -- and we've seen before that the situation of a widow was less than ideal.
So here is what Mary could be facing: as her "special" pregnancy became known, she could face many troubling possibilities. She could be rejected by Joseph, and face raising her child alone in a culture that did not value women very highly. Her reputation in Nazareth would take a hit, and she risked losing her life if Joseph accused her of unfaithfulness.
We can see, too, that Mary may have felt insecure -- unworthy for this awesome task of being the mother of God the Son, Who would be the savior of the world. We can't fault her for that, can we? Others have hesitated (or even balked) at God's calls in the past. Remember what Moses said? He was right there at the burning bush; he was not facing an angel, but God Himself.
"Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"
"What if they don't believe me?"
"I don't speak very well."
"Please send someone else to do it!"
Moses was facing a pretty tough challenge, no? But I think Mary's challenge was even larger -- she'd been told she would have a child as a virgin, and that the child would be conceived through the Holy Spirit; He would be the Son of God, and the Redeemer of mankind. She could have said all kinds of things . . . "I'm just a girl, Lord."
"I'm not ready to be a mother."
"I'm not well educated."
"Joseph may accuse me and have me killed."
"Maybe you should choose someone else."
But this is what she said: "I am the Lord's servant, may it be as you have said."
She knew Who God was -- the Lord Almighty -- and she knew who she was: His servant. She knew that nothing was impossible for her God, Yahweh. If God spoke it, it was going to happen. And even if she didn't understand the "how" or the consequences, she was going to go along with Him, for she was His servant.
And if the Lord Almighty wanted to give her the task of raising the Son of God, then she would accept it.
Later in chapter 1 of Luke's gospel, Mary's song is recorded, and in it she tells how she is rejoicing, and how she is blessed by God.
She sees her situation now as an honored one. She has been given a gift. She saw that this Life was to be knit in the womb by the hand of the Almighty (as are all wee babes) and that it would be her responsibility to raise Jesus for God. She probably had no clue what all of that would mean -- did any of us know that as teens? (Grin)
Whether we are moms or grandmoms, or we have no children of our own, but are aunts or neighbors, we all share a responsibility to influence the children around us for God. We may feel overwhelmed. We may feel totally inadequate for the task. But like Mary, we can be assured that "nothing is impossible with God." With God on our side, nothing is impossible. Do we believe that?
God looked upon Mary with favor because she had the right perspective: she knew that first and foremost, she was a servant of God. And she believed that nothing was impossible with God.
We'll see more reasons she "found favor" in our next study.