“Mary, Did You Know?” is a Christmas song written in 1991 by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene who were both members of the Gaithers vocal band. In this classic beautiful song, The Lyrics ask Mary mother of Jesus a set of heart searching questions.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will someday walk on water?
will save our sons and daughters? has come to make you new? This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? will calm a storm with his hand?
has walked where angels trod? And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am
I wonder what Mary’s response to this song would be? I wonder what your response would be if you were Mary?
Last week we began this Christmas series by looking at the doctrine of Christmas. We said that the core of this doctrine is that the word became flesh. Jesus is God himself en-fleshed, son of God and son of man. His humility is seen in his ability to become one like us and as us. The love of God is seen then in how God identifies fully with us as a human being with body, soul, spirit in the person of Jesus Christ. We are therefore called to minister to others in person by acknowledging others as human.
Today, I want to ask then, how do we respond to Christmas? How do we respond to this great message of Christ being born among us? But even more intimately how do we respond to Christ being born in us? I share also from the reflections of Pst. Coty Pinckney in a classic sermon entitled Oh magnify the Lord.
My thesis is simply that God resists the proud and honors the Humble. If Jesus then in Philippians teaches us divine humility, Mary then teaches us humility from a human perspective. If Humility is seen in Jesus when he became flesh, then Humility in our perspective is seen in us how Mary responded to God’s call, when he interfered with her world. How we respond when Jesus moves into our neighborhood.
The young Virgin Mary perhaps is one of the best vessels God uses to teach us this great lesson during this Christmas season. Christmas in the eyes of Mary, was not just a time of merry making and drinking and eating, but deep soul searching and heart pondering.
Even after this heart- rendering season, she would soon learn that being the mother of Jesus, was not a light matter of providing maternal love, food clothing and shelter. Torn between my child and God’s Son. My child to love, to protect, to nurse and to hold, God’s son chosen to die and save the world. So today we ask Mary “What do you feel about Christmas?”
Turn with me to our main text Luke 1:26-56
A little background here, Mary a young virgin is engaged to Joseph a descendant of David. This was an ordinary couple in a little town in Nazareth, going about life. Elizabeth her relative was now about 6 months pregnant after many years of barrenness. God intervened for Zechariah and Elizabeth and they were able to conceive in their old age.
To be a virgin at marriage was an honorable thing, but to be a ‘pregnant virgin’ was a paradox that was risky for Mary. It was even a greater risk to claim conception by the Holy Spirit. Imagine the conversations with her parents, with Joseph, with the priests. These are the people and circumstances that the savior of the world chose to come to this world.
2 Lessons I want to share from Mary about Humility.
• God matures our humility through unexpected and inconvenient Grace
It is said that Grace is God’s unmerited favour. This is not only true for things we hope for but things we also don’t expect. Humility then is seen in how we respond to God’s grace. God’s grace is not only unmerited, but most times unexpected and most often inconveniencing. Mary Found favour with God and it changed her plans dramatically.
How does she respond? Why does she respond the way she does? What lessons does Mary provide for us, as God changes our plans?
God’s Inconvenient Grace
Gabriel – the same angel – goes to an obscure town out in Nazareth. This town that is asked“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Think of the place you would least expect to give birth to a president or a major business leader.
We learn elsewhere that Joseph is a carpenter. He thus has a profession. Thus, the family is not poverty-stricken by the standards of the day, but neither Joseph’s nor Mary’s family has any claim to prominence. Joseph is a small-town carpenter. That’s it.
Yet Gabriel appears, saying, “Greetings, O favored One, the Lord is with you!” Mary is frightened as is the usual biblical response when people see angels. She can’t figure out how she is favored, how she is a recipient of grace. So Gabriel explains in verse 30:
“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God”
“You have found favor” or “found grace.” Gabriel is saying, “Mary, God is going to show you unimaginable grace. God will give you a privilege so far beyond your deserving that you will be overwhelmed.”
The angel explains this grace in verses 31-33:
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Look at how the angel describes Mary’s son: Great. The Son of the Most High. The Son of David. He will receive David’s throne. He will reign over the house of Jacob – that is, over all Israel, all God’s covenant people – forever.
The Jews had been waiting hundreds of years for the promised son of David to arise and become their king. Mary now hears the angel say that her son is this long-awaited Messiah. A young girl from nowhere. A girl with no prominence. Chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah.
Remember how Zechariah responded when he was told that he and his barren wife would have a son? He asks, “How shall I know this is true?” (Verse 18). He is asking for sign, asking for the angel’s credentials.
Does Mary ask for a sign? Not at all. She is just confused. She doesn’t see how this is possible. Luke has already told us that she is a virgin. Her response to Gabriel shows that it is clear to her that this child is not to be fathered by Joseph. She asks,
“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34
She is saying, “I don’t get the biology here.” Gabriel tells her it will be a miracle:
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy- the Son of God.” Luke 1:35
“Overshadow” may seem like a strange word, but it is used several times in Scripture to indicate God’s presence. In Luke 9:34, the same word is used when a cloud overshadows Peter, James, and John on the mount of transfiguration, right before God speaks to them out of the cloud.
Mary did not ask for a sign, but Gabriel in verse 36 gives her one, telling her of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. This is an example of what he says in verse 37: “Nothing will be impossible with God.”
How would you respond to this news? If I was Mary I would probably have said
“What? Me, pregnant? What will Joseph think? What will my parents think? You know, I was looking forward to life as a carpenter’s wife in Nazareth. Can’t you just leave me alone and pick some other girl?” In effect, that’s how Moses’ answered God’s call in Exodus 4:13.
Do you have a plan or dreams for your life? – A list of things you hope or expect to accomplish? Perhaps education: Finishing high school, college, or graduate school. Perhaps family: Getting married, having children, Perhaps career: Moving up in your profession. Perhaps recreational: Goals to achieve in sports, or a vacation you’re aiming at. Do you have a plan for Christmas- travelling, partying, vacation, How important is that plan to you? Do you have a status quo to maintain- then get ready for God’s favor.
How would you feel if through a change in circumstances or by conviction, you knew that glorifying God most fully in your life would lead you to abandon all those plans? How would you respond to God? How would you feel toward God? Let’s ask Mary…
Do you respond, “That’s for other people, not for me? God, just leave me alone. I’m doing well enough just as I am, thank you.”…
Humility is seen in how we respond when God interrupts our plans. How God interrupts our self centered plans and gives us His divine plan. He often does and he does not need our permission.
Something important about God’s grace, God’s grace or favor is based on God’s will not simply our human desires. When we pray for favor or God’s grace, we are asking God to interfere with our plans for his plans. God’s plan is not to make us rich, successful or prosperous; God’s plan is to bring forth Christ in us.
Humility is seen in how we respond when the beggar stops us on our way to work on a busy day, or how we respond when death strikes when we were expecting a wedding, or when God calls you to ministry in the midst of a thriving career. Ask Mary?
Mary’s answer is what God is looking out from every person.
“I am the Lord’s slave. Let it be to me according to your word”
Mary receives great grace from God – the privilege of bearing the long-awaited Messiah: A great, inconvenient privilege. This was nowhere on her radar screen. She had many expectations, many plans for her life. But Mary, showing great faith and wisdom, forgets those plans. She has faith in God’s promise to her and to her people.
When God calls us to give when we don’t have, when he calls us great when we don’t feel great, when he calls us to serve and we are underequipped, when he calls us to walk on water, our response should be like that of Mary.
Scripture reminds us that God’s plans are not our plans, His ways are higher than ours, his thoughts are not our thoughts. Yet we can trust that he works all things for good for those who trust him, because the plans he has are for our good and even in our darkest hour we can sing because his plans cannot be thwarted by our circumstances. Christmas is a time to surrender…the Lord has come.
But the second Lesson is the Joy of Humility that comes through patient submission and faith
No one else is likely to believe her story that her pregnancy is God’s work; no one else will be able to share her joy like this elderly relative who is also pregnant via God’s miracle. So she went to Elizabeth’s immediately.
Mary enters Elizabeth’s house and greets her.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Luke 1:41-44
If an infant still in his mother’s womb can be filled with the Holy Spirit, if he can leap for joy in response to the presence of his Messiah, there is no question that he is human. Babies in the womb are human. This is a clear implication with huge ramifications for the abortion debate.
Verse 45 then highlights the reason for her to honor Mary, and for us to honor Mary:
• Not because she was perpetually a virgin, Not because she is full of grace, overflowing with merit that we can tap into as the catholic church teaches
We should honor Mary for the same reason Elizabeth honors Mary:
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45
Mary is a woman of faith. She believes. She acts on that belief. Her plans were turned upside down. And she followed God faithfully. She is a wonderful example of a woman of faith.
Times did not get any easier in the next 9 months, raising Jesus was also not an easy thing when Jesus got lost in the temple and after she looked for him 3 days, and Jesus responds did you not know that I will be in my father’s house. Or raising Jesus among other children who wonder whats so special about him, and finally when she saw Jesus die….
She soon realized she was favored not because Jesus was her son, but the son of God, born for God’s pleasure and purpose.
She now expresses her response to God’s work in a marvelous song.
46 “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Luke 1:46, 47
For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Luke 1:48, 49
God has magnified himself through a nobody. God looked on her “humble estate.” He could have glanced at her and rejected her, thinking that her surrounding were too humble, her town too small, her parents too unimportant. But instead He looked at her and chose a nobody. He did not look away, rejecting her because she was nobody in the eyes of the world. So Mary says here, “I am a nobody. I am not important. My plans were not important. God is everything. He is mighty. He has done great things for me.”
So now, everyone in the future, all generations, will call her blessed – by God. Mary clearly believes Gabriel’s prophecy. She believes God’s might. She rejoices. She magnifies Him.
This Christmas season, will you take the attitude of Mary? Because of your humility, many will call you blessed. Many will get to heaven because you obeyed blindingly and trusted foolishly and believed God when it seemed impossible, because you submitted yourself to God’s plans
What about you? Will you humble yourself? Will you admit your need for Him? Will you thus magnify God?
You might say, “I’m not chosen to be mother of Jesus Christ! I’m not chosen to do anything important – so how does Mary’s situation apply to me?”
I can say with confidence that no one here this morning will give birth to the Messiah. But God nevertheless has a task for you, a vital task. You are like Mary, in that no one else can perform that task. Furthermore, like Mary, you will only accomplish God’s task by setting aside some of your own plans, being willing to lay them all aside.
• She saw her son do things she never expected, which she didn’t understand at the time.
• She saw her son misunderstood, then feared and hated by the religious leaders.
• She saw her son whipped and then crucified by Roman officials.
Mary found favor with God. But: finding favor with God did not lead to an easy life for Mary, and it won’t for you. Her statement, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” held when she saw and understood part of God’s great plan, and it held when she didn’t understand. We need to learn from her example always to live a life of humility, a life of acknowledging who God is, living out who God is, rejoicing in God your Savior, even as He upsets your plans and leads you through suffering. For He has looked with care at your humble estate, and has chosen to use you for His good, wise purposes.
Christmas is a season to welcome God to interfere with our quiet neighborhoods, interfere with our agendas. Only then will we sing joy to the world. Find Joy in humility – and thus magnify the Lord. Only the humble heart can sing Joy to the world the Lord has come.