Mary got up and hurried to a city in the Judean highlands. She entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. With a loud voice she blurted out, “God has blessed you above all women, and he has blessed the child you carry. Why do I have this honor, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. Happy is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill the promises he made to her.”
NT Wright said, “God’s purposes and plans are first revealed in a private meeting between two women on the edge of society.”
In the first chapter of Luke, we have 2 visitations from an angel – notice the differences in reaction and belief from Zechariah vs. Mary. Because at first glance it might appear that both of these people doubt the message, but a closer look reveals something that I think is key…
The angel tells Mary that she will have a son and she asks “How can this be?” In other words, how will this happen? She is asking a technical question, she wants to know the process of how it will go down, because you kind of need a man… and a woman…. and they go on a date…. and well… you get the picture. She is not doubting it will happen – she’s just talking logistics.
But when the angel tells Zechariah that he will have a son – Zechariah says “How can I be sure?” That’s a much different reaction. And the angel gives some push back. “How can you be sure?” Um… Because I’m an angel – I live with God – and he sent me to tell you.
That’s how you can be sure.”
We don’t know where Mary is when she has the encounter, I have seen movies where she is just sitting under a tree picking wildflowers, but she could have been at the market, she could have been walking down a road – she’s approached in a strange way – not once does the messenger ever say they are from God or give any indication that this event is supernatural – and yet… Mary believes.
For whatever reason, her heart is open, she hears the words and understands them to be God’s and she responds with, ” I am the Lord’s slave.” That’s amazing. That’s why her story is so incredible, because unlike you or I, she responds with absolute trust.
And when I compare the two, I think I’d respond more like Zechariah.
Zechariah who basically walks into God’s bedroom with a rope around his ankle just in case he sees God – and what happens? He has a heavenly encounter and his response is…. how do I know this is true? Do you see the irony? And to top it off – who is Mary? She’s nobody – she’s a local teenager. Who is Zechariah? A priest.
In the most holiest room in all of Jewish culture – Zechariah doesn’t believe. He is literally walking into the presence of God, and when something other worldly and supernatural takes place – he doesn’t believe it.
Mary on the other hand surrenders her life.
That is the how this Christmas miracle story begins.
It begins with amazing faith.
Mary hears the words of the angel and she surrenders her life and destiny and all her own hopes and dreams and even her body – to God. That’s what is so amazing – how Mary responds.
Someone approaches her in public and speaks very candidly, and Mary is confused, but she’s also open.
Did you ever stop to think that the Christmas story begins with the baby Jesus looking for entrance into this world?
He finds a womb, but not a room.
I know it’s terrible play on words, but hear me out. If I were to ask you which would be harder, to find a surrogate mother or to find a place to stay, you’d probably say “to find a surrogate Mother.” We’d expect it would be more difficult to find a willing person to go through the ordeal of child-bearing than it would be to find a room for the night – but that’s not how the Christmas story goes.
Jesus comes into our lives through our willingness to surrender. It was that way with Mary and it’s that way with you.
The idea of Jesus the messiah might seem like a lot of B.S. to you. It makes no sense and it’s probably just as childish to believe in Santa Claus, right? Well, some would argue that the Christ child only connects with those people who have surrendered to the story.
Christians are people who have said “Yes” to Jesus living inside of them.
This is why we resonate with Mary’s story so much. She was the first to say “yes.”