“Mary, Did You Know?”
Text: Luke 1: 26-38
Prayer: O Lord, we come with faith, not understanding completely this miracle of Christmas, we welcoming the wonder of it all. Speak to us of this holy event as we hear again the words so familiar and beloved. Amen.
That haunting song you just heard, written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene and sung so beautifully by CeeLo Green, causes me to wonder, “What did Mary know? And, conversely, what did she not understand?”
Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably about 14 to 16 years old when we meet her in Scripture. She was a simple Jewish girl born to Hannah and Joachim in the village of Nazareth, up in Galilee, the northern part of Israel. Mary’s parents were godly peasant folks whose only bragging point was that they were decedents of the great King David.
But then, thousands of other people could claim that distinction also. It was sort of like being descendants of someone who came over on the Mayflower.
Mary had just become betrothed or engaged to a young carpenter named Joseph. During this year of engagement, Mary and Joseph would never be alone or unescorted for any length of time. These were strict, old‑fashioned times, portrayed quite accurately in the current movie, “The Nativity Story.”
One day a top‑ranking angel named Gabriel visited Mary. The angel told her that she was to be the mother of the long‑awaited Messiah, the son of the living God. Gabriel was asking a lot. A young, unmarried pregnant girl in that day and time risked disaster. She could easily lose her fiancé, her family, her reputation, and even her life. If she told people that she had become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, many would consider her story ridiculous.
Nevertheless, Mary’s simple, faithful response was, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38) Mary’s willingness to be obedient to God, despite the risks, was her glory and her heritage to us.
And so, incredibly, Almighty God shrank down, way down, down so small as to become an ovum, a single fertilized egg barely visible to the naked eye, an egg that would divide and re-divide as a baby took shape inside a nervous teenager. Or, as the poet John Donne described it, “Immensity cloistered in thy dear womb.”
The song asks, “Mary, did you know?” Certainly there were some important things that Mary knew.
First, She Knew That God Uses Humble Folks for Mighty Purposes.
Later in chapter 2 of Luke’s gospel, Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with a boy baby who would become John the Baptist.
As the two women talk, Mary says, “Despite my humble status, all future generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:48, paraphrased) She says this not in a bragging way but simply as one awestruck by God’s mighty work.
In one of my favorite Dennis the Menace cartoons, Dennis finds his mother wrapping Christmas presents. He says, “Mom, I know some swell places to hide Christmas presents.” But one senses that Dennis is the main one Mom will be hiding the gifts from.
Speaking of good hiding places, the world would never have guessed that God Almighty was hidden away in the womb of a simple teenager of Nazareth. On the scales of the world, Mary was worth very little, but God made her the most blessed of all women.
Never think of yourself as a loser or a person of little worth. Don’t ever think that you have failed too much for God to love you. Never assume that you have no gift or talent that would be useful to the Lord.
God has a habit of using the most unlikely people to accomplish his marvelous works.
A Second Thing Mary Knew Was That Her Son Would Be the Promised Messiah.
Gabriel told her plainly, “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32)
In the days of Jesus, it was common knowledge that the Messiah would be a descendent of King David. Mary knew that her baby would be the one all Jews had waited for so long.
Here Is Another Thing Mary Knew — That the Name of Her Baby Would Be Jesus and That He Would Save People from Their Sins.
She actually learned this from her fiancé, Joseph. In a dream, an angel had said to him, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” and means, “God saves.”
If those are the things that Mary did know, what were the things she did not understand?
1. She Did Not Know What Jesus’ Life Would Be Like.
She did not understand that he would be so controversial, and hated by so many. She did not understand that he would be a miracle worker. After all, King David had not been a miracle worker. But performing miracles was a central part of Jesus’ ministry. Therefore, Jesus was inundated with hurting people, so much so that he and his disciples hardly had enough free time to eat or sleep. His lifestyle was beyond anything Mary could imagine.
2. Something Else Mary Did Not Understand. How Jesus Would to Die for our Salvation.
When Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to be circumcised on his eighth day, an old man named Simeon gave her a clue. He directed this ominous prediction to Mary: “a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:35). He was predicting that day on Calvary when Mary’s heart would break.
The cross has been the symbol of Christianity even since Jesus died on a crude, wooden, Roman version. Jesus transformed the cross from a symbol of torture to the sign of forgiveness, salvation, and hope.
Mary knew Jesus would save many people from their sins, but she did not know how he would do it. All mothers sacrifice for their children, but was there ever a mother who suffered as much as Mary? Mary actually watched her son die on that cross so all people, you and me, could be forgiven, know God’s salvation, and be changed.
When I logged into my email yesterday, an e‑mail message was in my inbox, written by a young wife and mother.
She told me of an experience she had at the airport this past Monday.
She was there with her two young boys to pick up a dear friend coming for a visit. Let me have her tell the story in her own words:
“As I stood in the airport hallway where incoming passengers arrive, I saw a soldier in fatigues rushing toward my area. He was a big man but very young. He stopped almost beside me and held out his arms. From the corner of my eye I saw a little toddler rushing towards him, crying out, `daddy, daddy.’ Right behind the toddler was its mother. All three hugged as a family.
Then I saw the soldier’s mother bursting into tears. His father hung back, hands in his pockets, a face full of pride and joy, fighting back the tears. Suddenly I forgot about meeting my friend. When that soldier’s eyes met mine, I said, `Welcome home, son.’ Tears were slowly building in my eyes as he walked away with his family. My older son asked why everyone was crying. I said, `Will, he is fighting for you. He is fighting in a faraway country so that hopefully one day you won’t have to.
They are crying with joy because he is home and safe.'”
“My friend finally showed up, and seeing her was wonderful. But somehow my perspective had changed. Somehow all the regular joys of Christmas paled in comparison with the gratitude in my heart that this soldier was home with his family.
Because I am a mamma, I cried that night for all the mammas of those soldiers. My prayers have changed from asking for routine things like recovery from runny noses and wisdom about career choices. Now my top priority prayers are for those mothers, fathers, wives, and children who are sacrificing so much so that the rest of us can have peace, freedom, and security.'”
Long ago another mother named Mary sacrificed enormously in order for God to save people like you and me. When God called, Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to your word.” She lent herself to the Lord with no strings attached.
That lending cost her enormously, but in the process her life was fulfilled and glorified.
There can be only one Mary in history, only one mother of our Lord. But the living Christ‑Spirit is searching constantly for new instruments, new hands and feet, to use in touching this sin‑marred world. Whenever and wherever God finds such a person, he has a new entrée into this world. Could God be asking you to make yourself more available in 2018 in a more committed, obedient, and joyful way? God has a task that is uniquely designed for you. Claiming that task may cost you a lot, but it will also fulfill your life. God waits to hear you say, in the words of Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant, and let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
Prayer: O Lord, help us to see in Mary a faith that grew and developed, and her example speaks to our lives so well. Help us to trust you with what we know and what we don’t know, so that we too can live in faithful trust of your goodness and wisdom. For in Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.