The familiar Christmas carol Breath of Heaven usually stops me in my tracks. For a moment, I pause and put myself in Mary’s shoes.
Can you just imagine? Pregnant out of wedlock in a culture where the consequences for that were steep. There were serious repercussions for that as adultery was actually punishable by death. We don’t consider that since it’s so normalized here in modern times. But that was a life-changer in a bad way back then.
As I listen to the words of the song I can’t help but feel some anxiety for her. I wonder if anxiety was a close companion during those times or if she was so convinced of God’s calling on her life that she didn’t care what anyone else thought.
Mary’s obedience and willingness to be used by God came from a deep love for Him. As we focus on love this fourth week of Advent we have to acknowledge that love was the driving force of Mary’s courageous response to God’s calling. Her love for the Lord gave Mary the courage to be obedient.
The path God called Mary to walk was hard, without question. She had incredible clarity and confirmation of what God was asking her to do but no one else had witnessed God’s call on her life. Thankfully, God provided a supportive husband who was also obedient to the Lord and likely encouraged her to persevere.
Her obedience resulted in the blessing of carrying The Way, The Truth, and The Life.
This all happened much before the book of John was written, but the dialogue between Thomas and Jesus in John 14 seems relevant to this season.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way? ‘ Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:5-6).
I wonder how much insight God allowed her to have. God equips those He calls and we are all equipped through our families and experiences in life. Sometimes we are asked to follow in faith and other times we are blessed with some clarity and insight.
The more I put myself in Mary’s shoes, I’ve come to think Mary was not following blindly one step at a time in her calling. Her Jewish upbringing cultivated her love for the Lord which enabled her obedience.
There is no doubt in my mind that God had prepared her for the task He would ask her to do, as he does with each of His children. He ultimately enabled her to obey.
God set all the details of her life to enable her obedience.
God had placed her in a family that knew scripture and Jewish tradition. Since she came from the line of David and was Jewish, I’m guessing she knew the Old Testament prophecies about God’s Son and the long-awaited Messiah. She was likely familiar with the passages in scripture that foretold Jesus’ coming and the life he would live.
In Micah 5 she would have read:
Isaiah 7 would have told her:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
She would have likely known the prophesy written about in Matthew 2:
And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene. (Matthew 2:23)
I wonder if she searched scripture after the shock of the angel’s visit wore off. In the account in Luke, we are told she pondered these things in her heart, so I’m guessing she did. How exciting to witness God working and the Bible stories being played out before her very eyes!
Mary was fully convinced and all-in on God’s calling for her life.
The Gospel of Matthew gives us a very matter-of-fact version of the story but Luke actually records Elisabeth’s blessing to Mary and Mary’s lyrical response. Mary was fully convinced and all-in on God’s calling for her life:
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Because of her love for the Lord, we are ambassadors for the Way, The Truth, and The Life in the same way Mary obediently carried The Way, The Truth, and The Life because of her love for the Lord.
Mary walked obediently in God’s calling and so can we.
Sometimes when we are called, we doubt God’s calling on our life because we don’t know what’s coming next and feel like we are not equipped, right?
Like Mary, we have also been prepped and prepared to live out our calling, whatever that is. We have to remember and focus on that fact. God equips those He calls, those who keep their eyes on Him. If nothing else, we are equipped with love for the Lord and that is enough to obediently follow Him.
Hopefully, this little walk in Mary’s shoes will give us some confidence to walk bravely in the coming New Year.
We don’t do her justice by assuming she struggled with what God asked He to do. Scripture does not hint at that at all. Was it easy? No way! But just as we often find, when we are obediently walking out God’s calling, we have a resolve that isn’t shaken by what the world throws at us. If we were to walk in Mary’s shoes, we would find our eyes focused heavenward. We would be in awe and grateful for the work God was doing through us.
Like Mary, we can be motivated to obey by love.
This Christmas, let’s take some encouragement from Mary’s experience. Let’s be motivated by love for our Savior and walk with confidence in the way God’s calling leads. We won’t have an angel deliver our calling, but He will illuminate our way through scripture.
The word is a lamp into my feet and a light unto my path.
May we keep our eyes heavenward, stay in God’s word, seek solid teachings, and live out our faith as we listen for God’s calling! Then we will be like Mary and able to be obedient to God’s call.
It may come through the next hymn that stops you in your tracks.