Updated: Oct 22, 2022
December 24, 2021
Around special times of the year, I try to read scripture that corresponds with the holiday. Reading scriptures related to holiday themes prepares the soil of my heart and focuses my mind on the true meaning of these special days. For example, around Thanksgiving, I love reading from the Psalms, especially Psalms 90-100. The psalms remind me of how great my God is and of how much He loves me; my heart responds in praise to my loving God!
A few years ago, I was studying the first few chapters of Luke to focus my mind on the Christmas story, and God began impressing on my mind the godly character of Mary, the mother of our Lord. Lest I confuse anyone, let me just say that in no way am I attempting to venerate or worship Mary. Mary was keenly aware of her need for a Saviour, and in her beautiful Magnificat, she called Jesus her Lord.
Mary was a sinner with a desperate need for Christ just as much as any other human being, yet I have wondered why Mary is at times overlooked in ladies’ bible studies. Godly women such as Hannah, Abigail, Esther, and Sarah take center stage in the pages of women’s bible study books while Mary, in a manner characteristic with her quiet demeanor, is sometimes set to the side. Yet Mary was a godly woman who came to a point of surrender in her life just as the aforementioned ladies surrendered their lives to God.
God chose Mary to do a task that no other woman in scripture would fulfill, and God had specific reasons for picking such a woman. Mary had a posture of humility toward God like a handmaiden sitting at the feet of her mistress, quietly waiting for the next command. Mary even called herself the handmaid of the Lord, and she quietly waited for God’s commands and obediently and faithfully followed His commands. Out of this quiet humility grew the beautiful fruit of surrender, sweet to God and sweet to the obedient one. Though Mary had to drink the bitter dregs of suffering in watching her beloved Son die, God gave sweet grace for her obedience.
Mary’s heart of surrender to God is poignantly summed up in her statement, “Be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). Mary yielded herself to God as a willing vessel through which the very life of the Son of God flowed. Our pastor stated recently that God did not place the life of His Son in Mary’s womb until after Mary made her statement of surrender to God. God did not force this miraculous plan on Mary as some unbelieving critics hurl in God’s face. Mary allowed God to take charge of her body and life, and she esteemed His words of promise to her precious. She valued the words of God by submitting to and obeying God’s Word, and the very Word of God grew in her womb and eventually in her home.
Mary’s obedience to God would cost her, and dearly at that. Her betrothed Joseph did not even believe her at first and planned to put her away in divorce, quietly because he surely loved her. Taunts of immorality would follow Mary the rest of her life, and her beloved Son would bear the supposed mark of illegitimacy. Undoubtedly, foreknowing all the potential scandal that would surround her miraculous pregnancy, Mary yielded herself to God knowing this was God’s perfect plan for her life. Mary held out her open hands and allowed God to place in her hands whatever He chose.
By studying the life of Mary, God has worked in my heart about yielding every aspect of my life to Him. Like Mary, I am learning to open my hands in surrender and allow God to place whatever He desires in my hands. This posture of surrender takes a great deal of trust because I do not know exactly what God will place in my hands, but I know that God loves me and is worthy of my trust. Though God may place difficulties in my hands, He will walk beside me just as He journeyed with Mary through her challenging yet supremely rewarding life.
The Christmas season is a time for surrender. The Lord Jesus submitted Himself to God’s redemptive plan, leaving the beauty of heaven and coming to the ugliness of earth. Mary yielded her body and heart as a willing vessel to God. Joseph yielded his heart to God, caring for his wife and raising the Son of God as an adoptive earthly father.
Have you yielded your heart to God at this Christmas season?
For a time of personal study, here is a suggested reading with some questions to help guide your thoughts and to prompt personal reflection. May this passage of scripture bless and challenge you as it did my heart.
Read Luke 1:26-38
1. What three statements does the angel Gabriel make about Mary? (verse 28) What do these statements tell us about Mary’s character?
2. What was Mary’s internal response to the angel? (verse 29)
3. How did Gabriel describe Mary’s Baby? (verses 31-33, 35)
4. How did Mary respond to Gabriel in verse 34? Is this a question of unbelief?
5. Verse 38 unveils the heart of Mary and gives us a glimpse into why God chose her for such an amazing task. Read this verse 3 times, and let Mary’s response sink into your heart. Is Mary’s attitude towards God your attitude towards God?
6. What is a handmaid? (verse 38) Do you view yourself as God’s handmaid?
7. What was Mary’s attitude toward God’s word? (verse 38)
Below are the lyrics to a song entitled "God Chose a Lowly Maid" that I wrote after pondering Mary’s response to God.
The angel came to Mary
And told her she was blessed.
He told her not to fear
For she was highly favored.
And when she saw the angel
Was troubled in her mind.
What could this greeting be?
What message here to find?
God chose a lowly maid
To do a special task.
She willingly obeyed
And did what God did ask.
If I will but obey,
And like this lowly maid,
Do what God does ask
Take part in God’s grand task.
You shall bring forth a Son
And Jesus is His name.
He is the Holy One;
O-er Jacob He shall reign.
And to him Mary said,
Behold, I am a maid.
At hand I wait the Lord;
Be it to me His word.
Though no one knew her name
The Son of God she bore.
The whole world knew Christ’s fame,
Salvation’s open door.
Like Mary we should be,
Accepting His pure will.
And wait for His good plan,
And trust His loving hand!