If you think of December 25th as Jesus’ literal birthday (I don’t want to argue with you about it, because what matters is that He was born, and 33-1/2 years later He died on a Roman cross, and God raised Him from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins) then approximately 2000 years ago, a very pregnant teen mom was slogging her way across Israel
in… no, on, a Mustang. (Wouldn’t that be the modern day version of a donkey?) Okay, maybe a Bronco, or a Pinto. You decide.
This is not a tale of honor and glamour. Even Brittney Spears’ little sister and Sarah Palin’s daughter became targets of criticism when they got pregnant and decided to go ahead and have their babies. Teen moms just don’t get many kudos, and they never have.
Flip the pages of the story back a few chapters. Nine months, to be exact. Historians estimate that Mary was between 14 and 17 years old at the time, based on her betrothal and cultural traditions of the day. I picture her doing chores – making a bed, or sweeping the floor – maybe she’s grumbling about it, as teenagers are wont to do, when an angel shows up with a God-gram (like a singing telegram, but with an angel for the delivery guy, instead of gorilla or a girl in a funny costume).
We have trouble with the angel-thing because we have, as a culture, separated ourselves from the reality of the supernatural realm as far as it concerns God, angels, and demons. But Mary was a Jewish girl. She’d been brought up believing, accepting, and expecting the reality of the supernatural. It’s sad to say, but I think today’s teenagers would be more likely to recognize a vampire or a zombie than an angel of the Lord.
Gabriel, in all his angelic splendor, shows up, strikes a pose, and says, in his big, booming angel voice, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
Teenagers being teenagers, I’m guessing Mary slouched in her chair, or leaned on her broom, and shot him the “look.” The one that involves an eye roll, a slack lip, and an expression of supreme skepticism. (If you have self-esteem problems, stay away from teenagers, no matter how old you are.) Scripture says, “she was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Read it, and then and picture that reaction on some teeny-bopper you know.
Gabriel doesn’t wait for Mary to start arguing. He says, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus…” (Do you suppose this is where we get the sarcastic saying, “Don’t do me any favors?” )
Mary knew what the angel said wasn’t the equivalent of a winning lotto ticket or the world’s largest Easter basket. An unmarried pregnant woman in those days was subject to punishment. The punishment for fornication and adultery was death.
O-kaaaaay. Put yourself in Mary’s shoes, er… sandals. Angel brings a promise from God that, if you accept it, will likely result in humiliation, shame, broken relationships, and possibly death by stoning. We’re not given any indication of Mary’s pre-marital relationship with Joseph, whether they were “courting” or whether the marriage was arranged and they scarcely knew one another. Regardless, Mary knows if she accepts this “favor” from God, Joseph will have good reason to hate her. He’ll have reason, according to Jewish law, not just to break their engagement, but to have her brought before the Sanhedrin for trial.
Teenage Mary looks the angel over. Thinks about what she believes. Acknowledges the One she’s been brought up to trust implicitly for her every need and desire: Adonai, Jehovah, El Shaddai, and goes out on a faith limb.
She turns to the angel and says, “I am the Lord’s servant… May it be to me as you have said.”
That might be the boldest statement in scripture.
It ranks right up there with anything Abraham, Moses, Daniel, Peter, or Paul ever said. It’s a statement of purely selfless faith. Note that: “self-less,” not “selfish.” How much did she know in advance? Did she understand all the prophecies? Did she realize God was about to accomplish a divine mystery through her? I don’t know.
What I do know is that it takes great faith to grasp any of the promises of God – from salvation to healing to accepting a call to ministry – and say what Mary said… “be it unto me, according to Your word.”
The promise is there for you. What do YOU say to it?