Good Friday morning ...
As we continue our Advent journey ...
When the Christmas story opens in Luke we find Mary is "pledged" to Joseph. That meant she had formally agreed to marry him, but the "wedding" had not yet taken place. Following the custom of that day, Mary would live with her parents and Joseph with his until the public wedding feast.
So, Mary is a teenager living with her parents ... waiting with happy anticipation for the day of her wedding.
It is right at this point that God breaks in. He is about to ask an unknown teenage girl to take part in something so shocking as to be totally unbelievable. What God asks Mary to do will change her life forever.
Gone are the happy dreams of a beautiful wedding ... gone are the days of sweet anticipation ... gone are the carefully thought out plans for the wedding feast ... gone are the hopes for the "most beautiful wedding to the most wonderful man who ever lived" ... gone are all her girlish hopes of a quiet life in the home she would personally decorate.
She will be married ... but not before rumors spread through the countryside and the villages around her home. There will be a wedding feast ... but not the way she planned. She will have a home and children ... but over her family will rest an uneasy cloud of dark suspicion.
It will all happen ... but not the way she expected.
In the history of the church Mary has often been portrayed as a kind of misty, other-worldly figure. If you look at some of the great paintings of Mary, they make her look so peaceful and beatific that you almost forget she was a real person. That's a shame ... because Luke makes it clear that she was very real, with very real doubts, very real questions and very real faith. Nowhere is this seen with more clarity than in Luke 1:38: "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
This is one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible. Perhaps it happened something like this: It's the middle of the afternoon and your mother tells you go fetch some water. On your way to the well, you encounter a man who turns out to be the angel Gabriel. He tells you that even though you are a virgin, you will conceive and give birth to a child who will be the Son of God. When you ask how, the angel says, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you." [Luke 1:35]
What do you say to that? What do you go home and tell your parents? What do you tell Joseph?
Mary said, Yes to God. Yes to the impossible. Yes to the plan of God.
Did her heart skip a beat when she said Yes? You bet! There she is, her teen head tilted high, her hands trembling just a bit, her eyes wide open, her nerves a mess, her mouth open in astonishment ... questioning, but not afraid ... wondering, but not terrified ... unsure, but not uncertain. When the angel said, "Nothing is impossible with God" [Luke 1:37] ... Mary took a deep breath and replied, "May it be to me as you have said."
And with those words, Christmas came to the world.
Let's not underestimate what it cost Mary to say Yes. From that moment on, she faced the incredulity of her friends ("Oh Mary, how could you expect us to believe such a bizarre story?") ... the scurrilous gossip of the neighborhood ... and the whispers of promiscuity that have lasted 2,000 years.
Mary would soon realize that saying Yes to God meant misunderstanding and public shame. Gone was her pure reputation and with it her dreams of a quiet, happy life in Nazareth. In the future ... her life would many times be happy, but it would never again be quiet.
Since we know the end of the story, we may tend to overlook the possibility of divorce. But Mary had no way of knowing how Joseph would respond to her pregnancy. Would he blow his top and walk out on her? Would he humiliate her publicly? Would he divorce her? He could have ... you know?
As it turned out, Mary had every reason to worry about Joseph. He didn't blow his top or try to humiliate her ... but he did intend to divorce her. Only an angel's intervention kept that from happening.
That, too, was on Mary's mind. By saying Yes, she risked losing the man she loved. Her whole future was on the line.
All these things were just the beginning. Mary could not know what the future would hold. Before it was all over, she would experience heartache, opposition, slander, confusion, anguish, despair and loneliness. In the end she would face the greatest pain a mother can endure when she watched her son die on the cross.
Mary couldn't know all these things. Perhaps if she had known, she might not have said Yes. But it's just as well that she didn't. Sometimes we say, "I wish I knew what the future holds for me." But you really don't want to know. It's far better that we don't know what a life will bring us in ten of fifteen years.
Mary didn't know the full cost of saying Yes. But having made her decision, she never looked back. God said, "Are you willing to believe the impossible?" Mary answered, "Yes I am!"
Without that Yes ... there would be no Christmas.
Have a blessed weekend as you continue the journey ...