Scripture of the Month-Isaiah 9:6-For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Luke 1:26-38 26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,
33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
An announcement by an angel to a young girl about how her life was going to instantly change, how she would be the recipient of a miracle that would not only impact her body but would transform her life would have been overwhelming for sure. Verse 29 of our text tells us Mary found the angel’s word “troubling.” It seems that rather quickly, Mary was able to move from worry to worship, from troubled to trusting. How did she get there? I want to propose five steps we can take that can be viewed from Mary’s life.
- Obey God fully. Luke 1:38 and Isaiah 48:17-18
As I read verse 38 where Mary says, “May it be to me as you have said” I hear her say, “I’m all in.” I see an immediate readiness on her part to be used of God in the ways God had designed. When we walk in obedience to God it takes us to a place of peace. Isaiah 48:17-18 say, 17 This is what the LORD says– your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river…
Mary’s peace was intact. She desired to fully obey the Lord. Her obedience to follow God’s plan kept her in peace and enabled her to worship instead of worry. Excited to share her news, Mary went quickly to her relative, Elizabeth’s home, to swap angel stories and discuss how both would play a role in redemption’s story as Elizabeth would birth John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus. She wound up staying with Elizabeth for three months and while she was there, worship broke out of Mary’s heart as Mary’s song was recorded in Luke 1:46-55.
Consider also, the role of faith, in Mary’s obedience. Elizabeth said to Mary, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Luke 1:45.
You want a “Merry Christmas” and a “Mary Christmas?” Just believe God. You will trust and obey because you believe. When you believe God for the impossible, you will allow yourself to be used in impossible, miraculous ways.
Notice the emphasis of this first point is to obey God FULLY. I like what the angel said to Mary in verse 35 when he said that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Most High would overshadow her. Mary was going to be completely possessed by the Spirit of God and the power of God. She was going to be enveloped and occupied by the Spirit from the inside out. This was a complete overshadowing. She wasn’t just a little compliant. Her whole being was invested in the plan of God.
Sometimes we want to obey God to a point and only to a point. Sometimes we have “keep out” signs posted on places in our hearts and on certain parts of the plans for our lives, and we try to keep God away from those spots. It doesn’t work like that. Partial obedience is still disobedience. No parent asks a child to clean their room expecting that they will only address what is on the floor and leave that which is scattered on the furniture, for example. No boss accepts half of the paperwork that was requested and says, “Let me give you a bonus for doing such a great job.” No spouse would welcome 300 out of 365 days a year of faithfulness and call that ok. God asks for our obedience, our allegiance. God wants us to be all-in, and what happens when we go all-in with Him is that He can accomplish the impossible through us! But often we want the miracle of God without giving our obedience to Him. It doesn’t work that way. When we go all-in with Him, however, generations are blessed in and through His work in us.
- Seek the Kingdom of God wholeheartedly. Luke 1:32-33 and Matthew 6:33
Look again at Luke 1:32-33 where the angel said to Mary, 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; HIS KINGDOM will never end.”
Mary understood that what was at stake wasn’t merely the changing of her body or the altering of her life’s plans, but it was about the Kingdom of God. It was much greater than herself. It was about an everlasting Kingdom and a King named Jesus who would never cease to reign.
Matthew 6:33 tells us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Seek first. Christmas is about the coming of a King who ushered in an eternal Kingdom. That has to be our priority. Kingdom expansion. Kingdom living. Those are the priority of every believer at Christmastime and every day of the year.
Kingdom Life doesn’t look like the world’s way of life. There is an intentional investment we make when we seek first the Kingdom of God. The way we spend our time, serving the Lord somehow, reaching to others to talk to them about the Lord and to show them the love of God, this is part of Kingdom Living. Living with character and humility, taking the nature of a servant is part of Kingdom Living. Pursuing the things that will last for eternity like the salvation of souls rather than chasing after the things of the world is part of Kingdom Living. Being present and accountable in the Family of God through the local church is part of Kingdom Living. Pursuing holiness and godliness when we speak and act is part of Kingdom Living. Growing in our knowledge of God’s word and desiring God’s will above our own agenda, these are part of Kingdom Living.
To become a Kingdom person is to pursue the heart of God and to understand why you are here. As participants in the Kingdom of God, we all have a role to play. Mary’s role was to be the birth mother for Jesus Christ and in so doing, she would advance God’s eternal Kingdom. Seeking first God’s Kingdom includes understanding what His specific will is for your life and going all-in for the good of the eternal Kingdom.
If we are going to seek first the Kingdom of God, we are going to daily seek to be subjects of the King and allow Him to reign supremely in our lives. The General Director for the Church of God, Jim Lyon, has gotten into the habit of having an empty chair in the room whenever he is in meetings because he wants to be mindful that Jesus is present. I love that because Jesus is the One in charge. He is the One who should be heard. He is the One who should be pleased with what takes place. Do we live with that kind of awareness and desire?
- Think Kingdom thoughts intentionally. Luke 2:19 and Philippians 4:6-7
The biblical account of the Christmas story talks about Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem at the request of the government, angelic announcements to multiple people, a supernaturally bright star, Wise Men traveling from the east to come and worship Jesus, shepherds being invited to come to the cradle of the Christ-child and King Herod seeking to kill the young baby Jesus. Luke 2:19 tells us Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. She wasn’t going to experience it without trying to put the pieces together. She wasn’t just going to go through life’s happenings, but she wanted God to be formed in her because of them. She wanted God’s perspective on what was happening to her and around her. She pondered what had happened and what was happening and what would happen and she allowed those experiences to take root in her heart.
Living thoughtfully is to live with the purpose of seeing things from God’s perspective. There are NO coincidences in the Kingdom of God. What happens to us has purpose and value. It means something. God wants to speak to us through the circumstances of our lives because here is the truth: God is orchestrating the circumstances of our lives. God uses that which happens to us to get our attention, to mature us spiritually, relationally, and emotionally and to reveal and accomplish His will. He wants His glory to be seen in and through our lives today just as much as He wanted His glory to be announced when the angels sang to the shepherds.
But we are often busy, aren’t we? Instead of being in a hurry to get to the Christ-child, we are just in a hurry. We don’t stop and think and pray and ask, “What does this mean, God?”
Mary was focused on the right things to ponder. She had a Kingdom-mindset. If I was Mary I could see how easy it would be to focus on the fact that I had to give birth in a barn, away from my home, away from my family. It would not have been pretty. If I was Mary, I could see how easy it would be to be focused on the fact that there was a hit out on my son’s life before he could even pronounce His own name. My Mama Bear instinct would have kicked in, and I would have been tempted to show King Herod who was really boss. If I was Mary, I could see how easy it would be to be offended by people who had shown up for the birth of my son and were uninvited guests, uninvited by me, at least. I mean, ladies, don’t you think it would be a bit awkward and unwanted if you had just given birth and you had smelly shepherds and some royalty with presents walking into your hospital room? (Oh, I know Jesus was actually like a toddler when they all crowded in on Joseph and Mary, but still.) She could have pondered how awkward, uncomfortable and confused she was, but she didn’t. She removed herself enough to try to gain understanding from God’s perspective.
We often get focused on the wrong things. We often think the worst. We internalize how everything we deal with is impacting us negatively, how it is unfair, how we deserve better. We can become pessimistic, bitter, angry and disillusioned. We build walls. We become depressed.
Or another broken way to respond is to create fantasies and look for ways to escape all-things awkward and unwanted which leads us into all kinds of trouble. You see, what we think about shapes who we become and what we are willing to do for the Kingdom of God. We know Mary stayed focused on thoughts that kept her committed to the Kingdom because she raised Jesus in the wisdom of the Scriptures. She raised Jesus to have favor with God and man as a young person. She raised Him to be a scholar who even from an early age was teaching others in the synagogue. Though she and Joseph had to escape from Bethlehem and go to Egypt when Herod was trying to kill the young Hebrews boys, she never let her thoughts take her to a place of fear where she then tried to escape the plan of God.
Philippians 4:6-8 talks about our minds and where we focus our minds. We can have a “Mary-kind of Christmas” if we will resolve to think about the kinds of things that will lead us closer to seeking God’s truth regarding our circumstances. A “why-me?” thought-life will lead us away from the purposes of the Kingdom because the Kingdom isn’t me-centered, but God-centered.
- Live Devotedly. Romans 12:2
Romans 12:1-2 talk about presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to the Lord. Mary obviously did that. To experience pregnancy is to internalize what it means to be a living sacrifice on a whole new level! Your life is no longer your own. Even your desires regarding what you will eat and when you will eat are no longer your own. They are dictated by that which has overtaken your body. The quality of sleep you will get, how comfortable you will be, those things are no longer in your control. Your schedule is interrupted with doctor appointments and preparations for that which has consumed your body.
There is a big difference between saying you are a Christian and living as a disciple of Jesus. If we are going to follow Jesus as disciples we must learn to die to ourselves. We are no longer our own. We follow in the footsteps of the One who has purchased us with His blood. His desires become our desires. He leads us into places that are sometimes smelly, uncomfortable, awkward, and just plain weird. And He has authority to disrupt our lives and to interject His will whenever He desires. That is what it means to be a living sacrifice. We choose to be available to God 24/7 and 365 days out of the year. Mary’s life wasn’t her own. She was the servant of the Lord.
- Follow God Humbly. Luke 1:47-48 and Psalm 96:6-7
God works through those who humble themselves before Him. Mary had a humble spirit. Even in her time of worship that was recorded in Luke 1:47-48 she talked about being blown away by God’s desire to connect with her. We read: My spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
Mary was humble. Truly humble. She wasn’t humble before the angel’s visit and then proud and puffed up that she had been chosen by God to do something very special. No. She was humble before and she was humble after because that is what she was! A humble servant of God.
Mary’s calling was hard. Most of us would pass on having her assignment, thinking it’s too hard, but what we need to understand this morning is that whatever God calls us to do, He enables us to do by His grace.
Proverbs 3:34 tells us God gives grace to the humble. What that means is, God will enable you to do things you couldn’t ever picture yourself doing. His grace includes strength that is equal for the task, equipping you for the work, or His grace includes a miracle that makes it Him doing the work instead of you.
If you think God is calling you to something, don’t resist it, just get out of the way. Get low. Bow down and worship the Lord for His desire to do a work in and through your life.
Psalm 95:6-7 6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.
Mary’s song which expresses her humility shows that she stayed “bowed down!” God being glorified was of the utmost importance to her. Throughout this whole journey of obedience, of Kingdom seeking, of Kingdom thinking, of devoting herself as a living sacrifice she never once made it about her. Humility is the attitude that says, “Everything I have, everything I am, everything I have achieved is because God has enabled me to have it, become it, and achieve it so I am giving Him all of the credit.” People who live humbly keep Jesus at the forefront of it all. And the angel told Mary that she had received the favor of God.
Those who are highly favored of God are those who have wholly and humbly given themselves to His Lordship.
God isn’t looking for those who think they are important or who have been declared by society to be special. He isn’t searching for those who seem impressive or influential. He desires to infuse His life and power into those who are willing to bow down and worship Him with their lives.
We all have things we are worried about this Christmas, but if we can follow Mary’s example by obeying God, Seeking His Kingdom, Thinking about His Plans, Devoting ourselves to being Living Sacrifices, and Humbly glorify Him, we can move to a place of worship that will become our witness to the world. That is the kind of “Mary Christmas” God is calling us as believers to have.