Advent – Mary, Mother of Jesus

Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a perfect example of God’s way of choosing those the world would call ordinary to reveal His extraordinary. Man places emphasis on outer appearance; God focuses on heart.

“But God hath chosen the foolish things
of the world to confound the wise;
and God hath chosen the weak things
of the world to confound
the things which are mighty;”
1 Corinthians 1:27

What did God see in Mary? What set her apart from all others?

Favoured Mother

An angel appeared to Mary saying,

“Greetings, you who are highly favoured!
The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1:28

Favoured here means to bestow grace upon or endue with special honour. It is the same verb used in Ephesians 1:6 where it is translated, freely given, poured upon, blessed with, bestowed, or made accepted. It is a reminder that all merit or grace comes from The Lord — for Mary and for us.

Pregnant

The angel continued,

“…Do not be afraid, Mary;
you have found favour with God.

You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus.
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,

and he will reign over
Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.”
Luke 1:30-33

Questions rose like unstoppable waves in Mary’s mind. A virgin conceive? The angel gently calms her fear; this conception, unlike any other, will be through the Holy Spirit.

Mary received by faith what many professing Christians continue to doubt — the virgin birth of the Messiah. How could this be possible?

“For no word from God will ever fail.
Luke 1:37

Servant Mother

This verse literally translated says, “With the word God gives, He gives the power to fulfill it”. Mary believed! Her faith rested in the Almighty God who gave His Word.

“I am the Lord’s servant,”
Mary answered.
“May your word to me be fulfilled...”
Luke 1:38 

Don’t be deceived! Mary’s declaration wasn’t new! Long before this day, Mary had already chosen The One she would serve. Choices predetermined in the calm will not waiver in the storm. Decisions made in the day will go unquestioned during the night. In human weakness, God proves strong!

Newborn baby

Mary quickly hurried off to see Elizabeth & Zechariah. Elizabeth carried in her once barren womb the child destined to prepare the way for the coming Messiah.

“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the baby leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Luke 1:41

Elizabeth prophesied blessing upon Mary and The Holy Child hidden within. What extravagant worship flowed from the hearts of these two amazing mothers — one whose days appeared almost over, another whose life was barely beginning!

Humble Worship

Mary`s first words acknowledge her need of a personal Saviour,

“…My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.”
Luke 1:47,48

Power, position, and privilege reveal true character. We find in this young woman, probably still a teenager, a steadfast, humble heart of worship.

Woman in worship

Embedded in her prayer is a dozen quotations from Old Testament Scriptures. Although she undoubtedly had no formal education and was illiterate, Mary had listened closely to the reading of God’s Word hiding it in her heart.

This treasuring of God’s Word continued. Whether coming from the mouths of worshipping shepherds or from the aged prophets, Simeon & Anna,

“…Mary treasured up all these things
and pondered them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

God’s words at times were piercing; at other times, like honey to the soul. Mary received them all with equal grace, humility, and surrender — treasuring, valuing, cherishing each as precious. Every utterance pregnant with promise!

A Mother’s Surrender

It is one thing to surrender ourselves; it is another to surrender our children. Mary, together with her husband Joseph, dedicated Jesus to the Lord. Women weren’t required to attend the yearly Passover; yet together Joseph and Mary went.

It was Mary who spoke up after Jesus had gone missing,

“After three days they found him
in the temple courts,
sitting among the teachers
listening to them and
asking them questions.”
Luke 2:46

Jesus felt “at home” in God’s house. Even though she didn’t understand, Mary again “treasured all these things in her heart.” Content, perhaps, to know her Son possessed a listening heart!

A mother, surrendered and listening to God, willingly yields her children to His design.

Years pass quickly! Like his father Joseph, Jesus became a carpenter. But for three days the carpenter’s shop was quiet; the apron unmoved upon the bench. A recent baptism! A cluster of followers forming!

Carpenter shop

Something was shifting; her mother heart knew it.

“They have no wine,” were her only words to Jesus.

“Woman why do you involve me?
Jesus replied.
My hour has not yet come.”
John 2:4

Refusing offence, her words to others echo her knowing heart, “Do whatever he tells you.” Surrender precedes miracle!

No time for demanding or needing,
manipulation or co-dependency,
self-pity or control.

“Do whatever he tells you.”

Steadfast Mother

Without understanding all God was doing, Mary gave her Son again, and again, and yet again to His Sovereign will

as an infant and then a child,
at the wedding in Cana,
and when people called Him
crazy or demon-possessed,
even at the cross,
and the tomb.

Jesus, death and resurrection

From conception on, Mary believed.  She followed Jesus both with a mother’s love and a disciple’s commitment. In steadfast devotion, she accompanied His last fatal journey to Golgotha.

To the tomb she plodded with heart numbed by grief. Here, on resurrection morning, sorrow turned to joy! Mary and a handful of women were among the first to voice this powerful message,

“He is not here:
for he is risen, as he said.”
Matthew 28:6

Was she one of the unnamed with “The Eleven and those … assembled together” when Jesus entered revealing nail-scarred hands and feet?  Later after Jesus’ ascension, we see her among those continually praying in the upper room. Waiting and seeking the promised Holy Spirit.

Years of prayerful abiding, sustained and prepared her.

And I will ask the Father,
and he will give you another advocate
to help you and be with you forever
 the Spirit of truth.
The world cannot accept him,
because it neither sees
him nor knows him. But you know him,
for he lives with you
and will be in you.”

John 14:16-17

Mother of Promise

Mary was one woman, a “humble servant”, who treasured God’s promise — not for a moment but for a life time.

What about us? Whether man or woman! We too can become people of promise as we

surrender in humble submission,
cherish God’s word as precious,
believe beyond understanding,
position ourselves in prayer,
and steadfastly follow
The Master.

In weakness, we find strength. God is adequate in our insufficiency. Upon common circumstance, He breathes His extraordinary, crowning our little with favour.

The Bible

Until, in Him we too become children of promise!

 “So in Christ Jesus you are
all children of God through faith,

for all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile,
neither slave nor free,
nor is there male and female,
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If you belong to Christ,
then you are Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:26-29

Mary became an unexpected heir of promise, not once but twice. First in her womb, as a virgin; then in her heart, as a disciple. What generations had long hoped for, Mary received — Christ, the Saviour!

Now by faith in Jesus Christ, there is equal access. The promise of eternal salvation is offered freely to each of us. Who today will believe? Will you? Will I?

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Advent – Joseph a Man of Dreams

We all have dreamed dreams. Some have been realized; others await fulfillment. Do you have a dream? Is there something you are anticipating?

I love children’s dreams about virtually unlimited possibilities of doing and becoming. As youth, dreams form around making the team, being chosen for a lead role, getting a driver’s license or reaching autonomy. Years pass and new dreams encompassing marriage, owning a home and starting a family take greater shape. Later in life, minds fill with dreams of retirement and less toil.

Man was created with an innate ability to dream!

Dream

It is evidence of being formed in the image of God — the One who envisioned and spoke all things into being. Dreams enable us to reach beyond today’s reality, pushing present boundaries toward what could or might be.

Shattered Dreams

I remember well the excitement and anticipation with which each of our sons approached marriage. Filled with far-reaching plans and joyful hope, the future held promise.

I’m sure Joseph was much the same. How long his betrothal to Mary lasted, we aren’t sure. In the custom of the time, he would begin to prepare a house for his future wife and family as soon as he was engaged.

“This is how the birth of Jesus
the Messiah came about:
His mother Mary was pledged
to be married to Joseph,
but before they came together,
she was found to be pregnant
through the Holy Spirit.”
Matthew 1:18

I cannot imagine the upheaval of emotions that filled Joseph when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy: anger, betrayal, disbelief, fear, anxiety, confusion, disquiet. He watched helplessly as his greatest dream shattered irreparably before him.

Honour

Where did he go so wrong? Wasn’t he faithful to God? Hadn’t he tried to follow the Lord? How could this happen? Why?

The weight of disappointment and hurt must have been unbearable! Despite his personal pain, Joseph chose to act with the same integrity and honour that previously marked his life.

“Because Joseph her husband
was faithful to the law,
and yet did not want to expose her
to public disgrace,
he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Matthew 1:19

Joseph prepared himself to protect Mary regardless of any backlash! Undoubtedly, others questioned his sanity in making such a choice. Nonetheless, Joseph’s faithfulness and integrity blazed forth in spite of his own doubt and confusion.

His dream died a brutal death! Time to cut the loses! Walk away!

A Dream

What do you do when dreams shatter like broken glass on a concrete floor? Walking away may seem easy, even logical. The dark disintegration of man’s expectation is the perfect atmosphere for God’s revelation, igniting hope from hopelessness.

Expect

“But after he had considered this,
an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary
home as your wife,
because what is conceived in her
is from the Holy Spirit.
She will give birth to a son,
and you are to give him the name Jesus,
because he will save
his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1: 20,21

Things are not always as they appear. Mary is pregnant but not because of unfaithfulness.

If Joseph was confused before, this dream may have intensified rather than answered the questions dominating his thoughts. Could this be possible? Was God really going to entrust him, a carpenter, and Mary, an unknown maiden, with the raising of the Messiah?

Every parent feels the overwhelming sense of responsibility that surrounds the birth of a child. How much more these parents and this birth?

A Man of Action

Joseph’s preset pattern of obedience to God set him in motion. Secure in his identity, he didn’t break his stride when faced with circumstances that would topple most men. On the basis of only a dream, he took immediate action.

“When Joseph woke up,
he did what the angel of the Lord
had commanded him and
took Mary home as his wife.”
Matthew 1:24

Trust

Walking humbly in obedience to God mattered more that anything else including human reasoning or influential voices of others. God’s word carried far more weight than the words of even his most loyal support community. At what point did Joseph exchange his

doubt for courage,
fear for faith,
anxiety for peace,
anger for hope,
or betrayal for trust?

In the midst of shattered dreams, obedience demands strength and resolve. He drew deep from the well named “Trust in God”. The steadiness of a man’s steps prove the soundness of his faith! Joseph was far more than a carpenter. God spoke to his identity: “son of David“, a man with a heart after God!

The steadiness of a man's steps prove the soundness of his faith! Click To Tweet

Faith Journey

There was nothing normal about this marriage. Perhaps there never would be! At some point Joseph had to make peace with his reality. There was no jubilant wedding night or honeymoon — two becoming one flesh.

A trip to Bethlehem, an untimely birth, strangers coming with well wishes and surprising announcements, prophetic utterances in the temple, more strangers with gifts and homage …. each confirming the identity of the Holy Child.

Peace

The dream of having a “normal” life died a thousand deaths! The desire for a secure home for Mary and Jesus probably remained foremost in Joseph’s heart — to provide for and protect his household.

Just when things seemed to begin to take shape, another dream!

“…an angel of the Lord
appeared to Joseph in a dream.
Get up,” he said, “take the child
and his mother and escape to Egypt.
Stay there until I tell you,
for Herod is going to search
for the child to kill him.”
Matthew 2:13

Get up! Escape! Sounds more like a nightmare than a dream! Would Joseph ever experience the luxury of “normal”? Maybe! But not today!

The same outright obedience that had marked Joseph’s life to this point continued. His steadfast faithfulness to both God and his family were enough to stir him from deep sleep. Packing their few belongings, they moved on. Before the awakening of dawn, there came a fresh realization that perhaps the worst was not yet behind them. They became refugees on the run!

Unshakable!

I am amazed as I consider Joseph, this incredible man of God. What an example of unshakable faith in God’s sovereign will.

“So he got up, took the child
and his mother during the night
and left for Egypt,
where he stayed until the death of Herod.”
Matthew 2:14

Faith

Wherever God led, however long the exile, regardless of questions, Joseph led his family with faith.

What kind of man walks with consistency at such great personal sacrifice? God knew Joseph could be trusted along every rocky road of this journey. God’s only Son was safe in the hands of this loving, passionate servant.

Is faith blind, or does it see without light? Is the breaking of a dream the end, or the beginning of something beyond understanding?

Dream Fulfilled!

Twice more Joseph would be directed through dreams:

“After Herod died, an angel of the Lord
appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Get up, take the child and his mother
and go to the land of Israel,
for those who were trying to take
the child’s life are dead.”
Matthew 2:20

and

“…Having been warned in a dream,
he withdrew to the district of Galilee,
and he went and
lived in a town called Nazareth.”
Matthew 2:22

Can you imagine the relief? At home with the threat over! Safe at last!

When one says “yes” to God, there is no way of knowing where “yes” will lead. “Yes” is unconditional agreement to God’s choice, God’s ways, His thoughts, His desires. The path of “yes” is often paved with sacrifice.

Hope

I have learned much from looking at the life of this not-so-secondary character in the Advent story. Each of us, at some point, will face the reality of broken dreams, failed promises, and unrealized hope. Then, what?

Joseph presents a powerful example of

faithfulness,
honour and integrity
selfless commitment
sacrificial obedience
passionate service
and unshakable faith.

May God see in us, what He saw in Joseph, a true son of David — one “who will do everything” He desires.

“… God testified concerning him:
‘I have found David son of Jesse,
a man after my own heart;
he will do everything I want him to do.’ ”
Acts 13:22

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