Have you ever considered what the first Christmas meant to Mary? We pick up the story with the appearance of the mighty angel Gabriel.
“And coming in, he said to her, ‘Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was greatly troubled at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be. And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end’” (Luke 1:28-33).
I doubt Mary heard anything after the hearing about conceiving and bearing a son. What she was told about this son was beyond her grasp, but she understood the immediate implication. “How shall this be,” Mary inquired, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel explained that, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35-36). With humble acceptance Mary said, “Behold, the bondservant of the Lord; be it done to me according to your word.”
Think about it! Mary is just a teenager. Can you imagine her inner turmoil and mixed emotion? It’s amazing news but who will believe it? If she announces it, people might think she is lying or crazy. Would she be accused of adultery? (The law considered a betrothed woman who became pregnant an adulteress). What will Joseph think? Will Joseph feel betrayed?
The Scripture says, “Joseph her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, had in mind to divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19). Being a kind and godly man, Joseph desired to protect Mary’s reputation. And apart from the angel’s confirmation of Mary’s divinely appointed role, he would have followed through with his intention to divorce her.
“Today as I read the accounts of Jesus’ birth,” wrote Philip Yancey, “I tremble to think of the fate of the world resting on the responses of two rural teenagers. How many times must Mary have gone over the angel’s words as she felt the Son of God kicking against the wall of her uterus? How many times must Joseph have second-guessed his own encounter with an angel—just a dream?—as he endured the hot shame of living among neighbors who could plainly see the changing shape of the woman he planned to marry?”
As the story continues, Mary threw a few things together for a journey to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The angel had mentioned Elizabeth’s pregnancy so perhaps Mary went looking for confirmation of her circumstances. Elizabeth did confirm for Mary what God had planned and Mary rejoiced in God for all He had done (Luke 1:39-40).
After staying with Elizabeth for about three months, Mary returned to her home. Then, as Scripture notes, “the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she brought forth a son. And her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.”
“The whole countryside is talking about the miracle of Elizabeth’s healed womb; meanwhile, Mary has to hide the shame of her own miracle. A few months later, the birth of John the Baptist took place with great fanfare, complete with midwives, doting relatives, and the traditional village chorus celebrating the birth of a Jewish male. Six months after that, Jesus was born far from home, with no midwife, extended family, or village chorus present. A male head of household would have sufficed for the Roman census; did Joseph drag his pregnant wife along to Bethlehem in order to spare her the ignominy of childbirth in her home village?” (Philip Yancey)
The gospel account paints a lonely and lowly picture of the nativity, “…shegave birth to her first born son; and she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-8). Mary’s willingness to be the Mother of Messiah brought her great blessing mixed with enormously difficult consequences. Yet Mary said: “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”
Mary was the first to accept Jesus on His terms, regardless of the cost.
As for Mary, the claims of the Lordship of Jesus call us to paths of self-denial and sacrifice. Mary embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ in a way that set a marvelous example for all of us.
The way God chose to enter this world reminds us of His determination to “destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside” (II Corinthians 1:19).
Sadly, in contrast with Mary, many have been unwilling to accept the Lordship of Jesus Christ on His terms. Unlike Mary, these people considered the cost of commitment to Jesus Christ too high to embrace. Let us follow the worthy example of Mary!