December 7, 2015

Travelling Towards Christmas - 1. Mary


Travelling Toward Christmas

1. Mary, the Mother of Jesus

Hello. My name is Jim Harris. I’ve been asked by Dave to provide some talks taking us towards Christmas Day. He’s also asked me to introduce myself so you know where I’m coming from. I’m a retired Christian Pastor, Evangelist and Teacher, having spent about 31 years in full time ministry.

In the run up to Christmas it is inevitable that we begin to think about the characters involved in the original events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Where better to start than with Mary, to whom was given the great privilege and awesome responsibility of carrying and giving birth to God’s Son, the Messiah.

Please read Luke chapter 1, verses 26-30.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

Mary was probably a teenager when she received the visit from the angel Gabriel to tell her that the Lord had chosen her for this very special purpose. Hearing his greeting she was greatly troubled. Meeting an angel isn’t exactly an everyday experience. But there was something deeper disturbing her peace of mind – the content of his greeting. ‘You who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ That set her on her guard. Whatever was coming next?

Gabriel sensed her fear and told her she need not be afraid. He was bringing good news not bad. The time had come for God to send his Son into the world; to be born as every human being has to be born so that, in due course, he would become the Saviour that the world needed. Hence the name they were to give the child –Jesus - which means ‘God saves’.

Just imagine the mounting excitement in Mary as he went on with his message. That was every godly Jewish woman’s dream; to be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah.

It all sounds very cut-and-dried, when we read ‘You will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.’ Despite the way it sounds, God wasn’t forcing Mary into this role, but he knew her heart well enough to realise he’d get a good response.

We have an insight into how she thought and felt about God in the song recorded by Luke in verses 46-55. She knew the Old Testament Scriptures well and used them as a basis for her outpouring of praise and thanksgiving. Mary was a spiritual woman, however young she might have been. She loved God and wanted the best for his people, which isn’t a bad description of spirituality.

But – life is full of buts – there was just one not-so-little practical problem. She was a virgin and, as Matthew’s account tells us, she was betrothed to be married to Joseph. Virginity up until the time of marriage was essential for the marriage to be recognised as legitmate in that society. That could be a huge problem for Mary; how could it be overcome? Conception would occur through the power of the Holy Spirit, said the angel, then, ‘Look what’s happened to your cousin Elizabeth; that’s a miracle for sure!’ Now for the punch line, ‘Nothing is impossible with God.’ Which takes us right back to the start, ‘The Lord is with you.’

That’s the key; God will take care of every detail, so don’t be afraid, however big the ask might seem to you. God is in control.

I can imagine Mary sinking to her knees, or even prostrating herself on the floor. in an act of worship, as she responded with the simple but whole-hearted words, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.’

Mary was unique, but the message for us is the same, ‘Nothing is impossible with God’.

The Christmas story has been wrapped up in romance and fantasy by our commercial world, but we mustn’t let that blind us to the truth inside, that God is looking to us for a response of love and submission to his will, so that He can do great things in and through us. That’s not a cheap advertising slogan like so much that’s about at the moment. No, it’s more like a serious challenge to a costly commitment but, ‘He’s worth it!’

Here’s a question to think about as we travel towards Christmas. What will it mean for me, if I follow Mary’s example and accept God’s will for my life?

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