Thought for the Week - 17th DecemberPastor Gareth Watkins
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
We read that when the angel visited Mary, she was betrothed to Joseph and due to be married. We also read that she is called a “blessed woman”, a “highly favoured” woman, and one who is told to rejoice.
Imagine you were Mary at this point in time. I imagine you would necessarily have thought these things applied to you. You wouldn’t necessarily have felt like rejoicing, felt highly favoured, or blessed. We read that when the angel came into her house and she saw him, Mary felt troubled. I think we all would have felt troubled if something of this enormity and magnitude happened to us.
Often this story is rushed through in books, plays or in films, but the detail about Mary provided by Luke is incredible. Luke records Mary as being someone who should rejoice, someone who is blessed by God, and someone who God esteems as highly favoured. He begins to detail the facts that sit behind Mary, not simply the fact that an angel appeared to her. We read of the emotions and feelings that she went through.
We can understand why she would have been troubled. Why? Because she wouldn’t have been able to work it out. We’ve all been there in our Christian lives, where we’re unable to work it out. Too many details, too many troubles, too many things that you can’t square off or put right. We cannot do it. In this story, Mary knew this too. Too many details that she couldn’t work out. The angel starts to describe feelings that she wanted to have – feelings she should have – but she’s troubled. We can understand because we would be the same. She’s betrothed, which means she has commitments to Joseph and there’s a wedding on her mind. A wedding means that family are coming, she has a house in mind, and she probably even has a date in mind for when they’ll have their first child. All kinds of things will have been on her mind, and then – at this moment in time – comes the angel, who’s telling her all different things that matter in eternal places. This is not an ordinary event.
This angel is talking about the man that’s about to come who will be great, called the Son of the Highest, and the throne of His father David will be given to Him. She has been told that the child that will be born to her will have nothing to do with Joseph, will be given all these spiritual accolades and all these spiritual places. Isn’t she right to be troubled? The position she’s been put in is enormous. All the plans of her life are standing before her and then… this event is upon her and she’s expected which way to go.
Was there a choice? Was she compelled to follow this path? I don’t think God compels anybody. I think she had a choice at this point – either carry on this road right to where God would take her, or reject it and turn away. She could have kept the angel out. She could have run away. She had choices. But she stayed. She couldn’t work out these things. The first thing that comes to mind is that she couldn’t sort out Joseph. She couldn’t sort out the wedding plans, the families, the religious people or the wedding guests. There’s an enormity to this whole situation! Massive promises were given to Mary. There was no way she could see the enormity of it, what was in front of her, or what laid down the road in the future. Yet that’s what she had to take.
Mary’s reaction isn’t one of being offensive or rejecting. Instead, she says: “How can this be, since I do not know a man”. When we walk along God’s path, many is the time that we will say the same – how can this be? But then something breaks. Because if God is in it, it has to come to pass. Mary could’ve tried to take back control. She could have insisted on not cancelling her wedding and fitting it in anyway. But instead, she sat back and asked God how could it be. She looked to God for an answer and for His way of working it out. The angel answers her in God’s words.
This is a personal miracle for Mary. The angel has a part of the whole story just for her. She wasn’t expected to change, to run away, or tell God to leave her alone. She was expected to use this heart that she had towards God to get her through this situation. Have you got a heart for God these days? For those whose heart turn away from God or grow hard towards God, things alter. Spiritual things alter. Family things alter. Relationships alter. Anointings alter. This woman’s heart was towards God, even at this point when she couldn’t work it out.
Mary responds to the angel with the words: “Let it be to me according to your word.” The whole of her life – the life that she knew – was hanging on a thread, no longer going to be there. A whole new life was going to appear, but she didn’t know what that was. When everything was upside down – her church life, her family, her wedding, her relationship with Joseph, her plans – she was saying to God “Let it be to me according to your word.” It was according to His word and not her own.
Even though she couldn’t work out matters, she carried on. Even though she couldn’t explain things to herself. There was an absolute dying to self and an absolute love for God. Is that us coming up to Christmas? Have we got a love in our heart for the things of God? If we do have a love for the things of God and die to self, then there is a blessing, an outworking and a furtherment of our walk with Him. If on the other hand, we’ve taken our lives back and our love towards God has grown cold, don’t let it stay like that in your heart. Seek prayer. Put it right. There’s no pride in this matter. It’s important that the love for God and the yielding of God is in us.
This woman showed an amazing dying to self and a love for God. The rest had to be up to God. We read the angel speaking to her:
At that point she’d chosen the things of God, she’d chosen the pathway of God, and she’d chosen to die to self. God does the next bit. He sees a sincere heart. He’s promises through the angel that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. That’s for her – her next step, her mind, her fulfilment, her giving up of the things of this life. The things of God in that way bless us and last for us more than the natural things, like the wedding. All the things we hold onto dearly can be forgotten in a moment of time. But the overshadowing and the anointing of the Holy Spirit lasted her for the rest of her life. That is the same for us if we go for it. The Holy Spirit, if He gives it, will last us for the rest of our days. If we yield to God.
Mary was a woman who yielded to God, who died to self, who wanted and loved the things of God. This is a personal miracle for Mary. She needed it before the miracle of Christ being formed in the womb, she needed this from God, and God undertook for her. We read: “For with God nothing will be impossible”. All these things we read of are impossible. It’s impossible for her to see her part in God’s plans. She must have felt not worthy. But all the way through, thing after thing after thing, has to be put on the altar of God. And so it is that “For with God nothing will be impossible”. God does the next bit – which is the impossible bit – for you and for me.
Mary couldn’t work it out, but God says that nothing will be impossible. Mary knew that in her heart. What about her plans, her emotions, what about her love for Joseph? She had to put that back on to God. These wonderful words are recorded by Luke for us to see that the love for Joseph didn’t have to disappear because God would restore that. He sent an angel to Joseph. God had to sort out the marriage and He did. God had to sort out the planning and the details, and He did. God sorted it all out.
At the end of the verses we read Mary saying:
Mary accepted it all. The details that God has given her. At that point she was tenacious, she was tough, she was strong minded, and she was humble. She wanted to trust and follow after God, and that’s what she did. It could have been so very different. She could have closed God’s paths off. She could have left the room. She could have stopped anything of the miracles happening. She could have left that world and done something else. But she didn’t. When she followed after God with her attitude and her desires, wanting God’s best ways, God came in and gave her the Holy Spirit. She could then see God had yet that step further. She could feel God that bit more. She could know in her mind that God would look after her and protect her.
Where’s the evidence of this? The evidence is in the next part. In Luke 1: 46-55 we read the Song of Mary:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant;
For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed.
For He who is mighty has done great things for me,
And holy is His name.
And His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich He has sent away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
She chose Him. Did she worry about the future, the explanations, raising the Christ child? No. She couldn’t outwork it. But she knew the words the angel had spoken to her, and yielded her life unto God.
My prayer is that we would all do the same. That we would yield to Him and His plans.