Intro & background
I was asked to share a meditation on Christmas in two churches. So I chose this story in Luke 1:26-38. And I decided to publish my notes for any who may be interested.
Luke’s nativity story is from Mary’s perspective, after his “careful investigation from eyewitnesses, to write an orderly account”, so that “you know the certainty of what you have been taught” (1:1-14). This is in contrast to Matthew’s nativity story, which is more from Joseph’s perspective.
We see the wonder of God’s coming into the world in baby Jesus, the Messiah-King, by human-divine agency: Mary and God’s Spirit. It involved not only Mary’s body, but her whole being, and her whole world.
“Christ-mass” is the celebration of Christ (Messiah-King) coming into the world. It involves the mystery of human-divine agency. Thus, there is a long historical Church tradition of Mary as a model of faith and obedience, a model of Christian discipleship.
As God came into this world through Mary, so God comes into our world in and through you and me. We see her example of availability and agency. God comes in us, through us, to the world around us, forever changing it!
Thus we can learn five things from Mary as a model of Christian discipleship in Luke 1:26-38, from “Christ being formed in you”, in the words of Paul (Gal 4:19).
- Be-Loved: Mary in Hebrew is Miriam (v.27), meaning “beloved”. Gabriel came to Mary, greeting her as one “highly favoured, the Lord is with you” (28). God didn’t choose Israel because she was numerous or obedient, but because he loved Israel, “set his affection on her” (Deut 7:7-9). The same with you. God chooses you, comes to you, not because you’re strong or intelligent or whatever, but because he “so loved” you (John 3:16). Mary was troubled and amazed by this greeting, this affirmation of love (29). Who am I to receive this visitation, this greeting, this message? We too struggle to receive grace and favour… to be loved. We need to learn how to be-loved. And to believe it!
- Be-lieve: “Don’t be afraid” (30). Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear is the mortal enemy of belief. The explanation of what God would do in her, and through her into the world (30-33), required faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s word” to us (Rom 10:17). God’s word, his promise of what he will do, sounds too full of wonder to believe! But Mary believed! Her life story speaks of faith in God, in what God was doing, bringing the King/Kingdom through her into the world. She believed that “nothing is impossible with God” (37). God’s coming into this world requires you to believe God, to believe his word and works to you, in you, and through you.
- Be-brave: “How will this be?” (34) is not unbelief. It’s a genuine query of faith. Being a virgin, she was unsure how it would happen. How will God do it? What must I do? To believe and keep trusting, when it seems naturally impossible, calls for courage. And to fall pregnant before the wedding was socially scandalous, an ‘illegitimate’ conception (Matthew 1:18-19), that would radically affect her life. Christ being formed in her changed her, and her world, completely – against all controversy and opposition! She was brave in Jesus’ conception, in his birth, in his life, ministry, death, and resurrection… a model of discipleship. God’s coming into this world in/through you calls not only for faith, but real courage. Be brave!
- Be-intimate: “The Holy Spirit will come on you… overshadow you” (35). Mary was available to God for intimate communion. God’s life and purposes are conceived, nurtured, and birthed in/through you by spiritual union with God. Christ being formed in you shapes and defines you in every way, in all dimensions of your being and becoming. Mary is our model of ongoing intimacy with God by his overshadowing/indwelling Holy Spirit.
- Be-humble: “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said” (38). Humility is accurate self-knowledge and self-acceptance in true dependence on God. False humility is inferiority – it’s self-humiliation. On the other hand, superiority is presumption and pride – it’s self-exaltation. As you make yourself fully available to God for intimate relationship, you become his servant, humbly doing his will on earth as in heaven. Therefore, God comes into this world through humble servants… who are beloved, who believe, who are brave, who live in and from intimacy with God.