Mary, An Interesting Choice
Each December, many people take time to focus on an event called "Christmas." For some people it is merely a chance to increase the profits for the fiscal year. For others it is a time of family and friends, for get together and fun. For some it is a time to focus on the birth of God's Son about 2,000 years ago.
Much that surrounds the birth of Jesus is fiction and myth. No wise man ever visited the manger (read Matthew 2). No little drummer boy came to play at the bedside of the newborn child. Much that our society celebrates during the Christmas season is all man-made and based on human tradition.
Nowhere is that more true than with the mother of Jesus. Mary has had more myths built up around her than perhaps any other person in the New Testament. Because of the confusion that surrounds this young woman, many people fail to understand just what God did when He sent Jesus to be born on earth as a fully human child. While the myths about Mary are unimportant, the truths about Mary still teach us much about our God and how He works in our world, even today.
The choice of Mary is interesting. If you were going to send your precious child to be born on earth and raised by human parents, who would you choose? The mother of Jesus was to be a virgin, a sign that God had come to be with man.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
This virgin who was chosen was to give birth in the city of David, Bethlehem.
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
The earthly Son of God was to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem. He would be a descendant of David, the great king of ancient Israel. When God wanted to send His Son to live among men and die for all mankind, He chose Mary.
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!”
So, God chose Mary, an interesting choice...
AN INTERESTING CHOICE BECAUSE OF HER AGE
The custom during the time of Jesus' birth was for young women (we would call them girls in today's world) to be betrothed to an older man. Typically this was done when the girl was in her pre-teens, that is, about age 12 to 14. Then, in a year or two, she would actually marry her betrothed, usually between the ages of 14 and 16. Few young women were older than that when they were betrothed and married. The betrothal itself was a solemn thing, considered legally binding. In fact, it took a legal act to dissolve a betrothal, just as it took a legal act to dissolve a marriage. So, a betrothed young woman would be legally bound to a man, although they were not yet living as husband and wife.
This is an amazing aspect to the birth of Jesus Christ. Would you choose a teen aged girl to raise the Son of God? Would you select a young woman with no experience as a parent? Would you compound the challenge by putting her on a difficult journey from her home in Nazareth of Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea? God chose to put the fate of the life of His Son on earth in the hands of a young woman, not yet married, who would give birth in difficult circumstances.
However, this should not surprise us. The choice of Mary is not really about her, it is about God. You see, God often chooses people we would consider unlikely, but they are people He uses to accomplish great things. For instance, would you choose a coarse, rough talking fisherman to be an apostle? God did, when he chose Peter. Would you choose a shepherd boy, the youngest of eight sons, to be your greatest king? God did, when he chose David. Would you choose the arch enemy of your people, a man who had arrested and killed Christians? Would you turn this enemy of the cross into one of its greatest champions? God did, when he chose Saul of Tarsus to become Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. We see in the selection of Mary just another of God's surprising choices. Mary was not special, she was made special because she was God's choice to be the mother of His Son. In fact it was probably the fact she was so ordinary that made her God's choice on this occasion.
God still does this. While we dismiss some people as being beyond the call of God, God still reaches out to them. While we look at each other and see weakness and failing, God sees opportunity to develop another great servant. Even if you are young, inexperienced and without "great talent," God may entrust to your hands His greatest treasures, just as He did with a young virgin 2,000 years ago.
AN INTERESTING CHOICE BECAUSE OF HER CIRCUMSTANCE
Mary came from a town called Nazareth. Nathaniel's reaction to the mere mention of this village tells us much about Nazareth:
Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?
Nazareth was not a special place. It was a little town in the hills of Galilee, off the beaten path, and away from the center of commerce and activity in Galilee, the Sea of Galilee. Mary was raised in a poor little city with no great reputation. She was probably of poor peop1e, a family which worked hard but had little. So, God chose someone who was not only young and inexperienced, but He chose someone who had very little to offer in terms of the opportunities of this world.
Would you send your only begotten Son into such circumstances? Wouldn't you want your Son to be raised in the courts of a king? Or by a highly educated and honored scholar? Perhaps by a physician or investment genius who could provide all that life offers? Don't most parents today want their children to have the best, to be given the greatest chance of success in life? Mary and Joseph probably wanted that for their son, and for all of their children.
God's ways are not our ways, and He chose differently. God sent His Son into the care and household of a young couple with little to offer in the way of worldly comforts. Jesus is not special because of who gave birth to Him, or the circumstances in which He was born and raised. Yet it was from such humble beginnings that God chose to change the entire course of human history, both on earth and in eternity.
Too often we limit our service to God by our lack of "gifts." "We don't have this," or "we can't do that" becomes our reason for not acting in God's behalf. But God never asks you to have a lot so you can serve Him. God only asks that you use what He gives you. If that is a little, from a nowhere little town in a backwater kind of place, so be it. Serve God there, just as Mary and Joseph did in raising Jesus. If that is in a small place of no great consequence on the world scene, just remember, God used just such circumstance to shape and mold His Son on earth so that Jesus could one day die for, and change, the world. It may be that God will find some way to use you, wherever you are and however little you seem to have. God chooses like that - even today.
AN INTERESTING CHOICE BECAUSE OF HER ROLE
Mary is given a daunting task. Perhaps she understood all that the angel explained to her, perhaps she didn't. But for us, it is almost beyond comprehension what God asked this young woman to do. Mary would nurse the Son of God. She would change His diapers, she would hold His hand as He took His first steps. She would watch Him play with the other children. She would be the earthly mother of Jesus in all that it means.
Perhaps no one has as much influence as a mother. If your mother was wonderful and sweet, you know what a positive influence she still is in your life, even if years have gone by since you lived under her immediate authority. If your mother was difficult and hard to live with, you still know what a powerful influence a mother can have, even when years have passed by. God knows the power a mother has over life of every child. Yet, the Creator of all things entrusted His only Son to the care of a young girl from a small village in a backwards time and place.
Yet, this role is for all of us. We all are called by God to represent His Son on earth.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
We might be amazed that God would risk putting His Son in the care of a young woman from Nazareth and allow her to shape and mold Him as He grew. But it is just as amazing that God puts His message of hope and salvation in the hands of people like you and me, and asks us to change our world.
Just as Mary was a powerful influence - all mothers are - so we can be a powerful influence, also, pointing people to the God who reached out to them by becoming man. When you consider God's choice of Mary to give birth to "His only begotten Son," (John 3:16), you should not be any more surprised when you realize God has chosen you to be His servant as well.
AN INTERESTING CHOICE BECAUSE OF HER ATTITUDE
When the angel showed up and gave the news to Mary, her only reaction was:
Let it be to me according to your word.
Mary could have made many excuses. She could have complained, "I am too young," or "What will people say?" She could have said she was not ready for such a task or that God was asking too much of her. Mary could have made all the excuses people today make when God calls on them to change the world. But, Mary simply submits to the will of God and accepts His role for her life.
Their acceptance of responsibility is what made Mary, and Peter and David and all the other great servants of God so special. It is not that they were sinless, for they were not. It is not that they had special abilities which no one else had, they did not. It was simply that they accepted the will of God for their lives and served Him faithfully where He called them. Mary was not sinless or perfect, she was an ordinary young woman from Galilee. But she was willing to surrender to God's will.
What about you? Will you surrender to God? Will you stop making excuses for why you can't be what God wants, and simply let it be done according to His will? Trust in God, repent of your sin and be baptized today. Let it be done to you, according to God's will. Then God can begin the process of changing the world around you as you serve Him.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.