“Hey, Aunt Marybeth—would you be up for having me recover from my knee surgery at your house? I thought it might be a little more comfortable than my dorm room.”
My attitude toward my nephew’s request could have gone one of two ways. I could have viewed it as presumptuous and an imposition interrupting my family’s busy schedule. Or, I could have considered it an honor that he felt comfortable enough to ask us for help. My family had developed a close relationship with him since he began attending a college near our home, so the request was easy for him to make and for us to grant. Opening our home to him had always been a blessing to us and this was no exception. Being there for him after surgery just deepened his relationship with our family further.
I remembered that event and the blessing of having life interrupted as I read Mary’s story in Luke 1 recently. Scripture tells us that Mary was a virgin, pledged to be married to a man named Joseph. In a stunning set of events, an angel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” He explained that Mary would conceive a child who would rule on David’s throne and that her son’s kingdom would never end. In other words, she would be the mother to the Messiah that had been promised since the time of Abraham, thousands of years earlier.
Not surprisingly, the news of this impending life interruption troubled Mary greatly since she was an unmarried virgin. Under Jewish law, she could have been stoned to death as an adulteress for being pregnant out of wedlock. Even if she wasn’t accused of adultery, her plans for the future were going to be derailed by this unexpected pregnancy. However, after the angel explained a few more details, Mary responded simply, “I am the Lord’s servant…May your word to me be fulfilled.”
I marvel at the way Mary relinquished her plans for God’s greater purposes. She trusted Him and didn’t ask about how He would work out all of the potential problems that lay ahead. She was open to Him, no matter how disruptive His plans would be to her life. It’s humbling, isn’t it?
From a worldly perspective Mary had much to lose through this pregnancy as an unwed teenager. It could have signaled the end of her betrothal to Joseph and the beginning of a life ostracized from her family and her community. Yet, Mary knew God had a vantage point beyond what she could see. She didn’t let possible negative outcomes keep her from being open to His plan. She didn’t know how things would work out, but she did know Who would work them out for her.
Reading further in Luke 1, we find Mary’s song of praise to God, often referred to as The Magnificat. In the nine verses of her song in Luke 1:46-55, she recounted God’s greatness and remembered His deeds from the Israelites’ history. She recognized that the child she carried would fulfill the promise God made to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation…and all peoples on the earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2a & 3b, NIV) Throughout her song, Mary quoted passages from Psalms, Isaiah, Habakuk, Exodus, Jeremiah and 2 Samuel.
Mary’s song reveals her tremendous knowledge of Scripture and a deep understanding of God’s character. Maybe this is part of the reason He chose her to bear His son. She recognized the significant role she had been chosen to play and rejoiced in it saying, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name…He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” (Luke 1:48b, 49, 54, 55, NIV) She knew God kept the promises He made because she had seen it throughout the history of her people. She applied what she learned to her circumstances and lived like she believed it was true.
Mary’s example humbles me, but it also inspires me. Her knowledge of Scripture and her ability to apply what she learned to her life makes me want to study it even more. Her openness to God’s interruptions challenges me to be mindful of the ways He wants to bless me with unanticipated opportunities. Her willingness to accept God’s new plan for her life and to believe He would use it for good makes me want to pray for His will more and mine less. Mary saw beyond her circumstances and recognized that God would impact the world through the child she would bear. This attitude causes me to evaluate my prayers and to consider how often they focus on my needs and my little world versus praying for God to use me for His purposes and His greater good.
How does Mary’s story impact you? Are you open to God’s interruptions in your carefully orchestrated plans? Do you want to see beyond yourself and to let Him use you to impact the world? I pray this Christmas season will be one that provides new opportunities to encounter Him and to recognize the blessing of His divine interruptions.
Francesca Battistelli’s song “Be Born in Me” provides a beautiful example of Mary’s willing spirit. Click on the link and enjoy a Christmas worship moment as you listen.