Graceful Mary

 In Preaching & Teaching, Teaching

Advent is such a beautiful season in the church calendar. We celebrate the birth of our Savior during this time, remembering the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem to register in the census, the lack of space in the inn, the birth of Jesus in the stable, and the presence of angels, shepherds, and magi to celebrate the glorious event. We have carols, nativities, sermons, and Christmas Eve services each providing a flavor and nuance to the overall season. We look forward to this time with joy and anticipation. 

But the birth of the Christ child could not have occurred without the event that took place nine months earlier. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce to her that she would become the mother of “the Son of the Most High” and that she would conceive by “the power of the Most High”. (The complete story is recounted in Luke 1:26-38.) This is quite an announcement. Permit me to think out loud about the woman who received this message.

In the culture of first century A.D. Israel it was expected that a woman would marry young. Scholars tend to believe that Mary was a teenager at this point in the story, perhaps as young as thirteen years old. She would be treated as “just” a girl in our society, yet consider how she is described in this passage: Gabriel greeted her with the phrase “O favored one” and told her that she had “found favor with God”. The Greek words behind “favored” and “favor” both come from a primary word that includes the idea of “grace”. Gabriel was calling her “O graceful one” and that she had “found grace with God”. Notice that Mary did nothing to earn favor and grace with God; rather, she had been granted favor and grace by God. How could such a young person be considered for such an important role, except for the mercy and grace that God extended to her.  

How did Mary respond to Gabriel’s news? At first she was “greatly troubled”; then she was questioning: “How will this be, since I am a virgin”; then she was accepting: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” This girl was mature well beyond her years! She willingly took on the role of mother to our Lord Jesus Christ; Mary was surely a special person. But pay attention to Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, as he writes, “As a rule, Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians have tended to exalt the role of Mary beyond what the biblical text may warrant … while Protestants have tended to diminish Mary’s role below what the text calls for.” (Adam Hamilton, The Journey; Walking the Road to Bethlehem, pg 23)

As the earthly mother of Jesus, Mary had a position that was both necessary and important. This Advent season let us be Christians who accord her with the proper amount of honor and respect for her obedience to God’s will. Let us not overlook the person of Mary in our hurry to meet the infant Christ child. Let us not speed past her place in the story too quickly in order to arrive at the angels, shepherds, and magi. Let us recognize the maturity and grace this young woman possessed in order to play her role in God’s great plan of redemption. Let us praise and worship the Christ child while at the same time remembering His graceful mother Mary.


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