‘I am the Lord’s servant’ (Luke 1:38). One line. One line that sums up Mary’s entire life, and her entire character. Mary led a life of obedience to God. A life of self-sacrifice for the greater good. A life which fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. A life of ‘yes’.
Mary may have been sinless, chosen by God and eventually the mother of Jesus, but she was still human. She still faced the pressure put on women throughout the ages to live up to the perfection expected of her. She still had duties and responsibilities both within her family and within her community. She had her family’s good reputation to uphold. Yet in an instant she walked away from all of that because she knew that the only view of her that really mattered was God’s.
In the Christmas story we have a tendency to paint a beautiful picture of the flawless woman who popped out a baby which went on to save the world. We neglect the harsh reality of the life that Mary accepted in bravely and selflessly saying ‘yes’ to God. Her ‘yes’ was not an easy response to a simple question posed by a colourful cartoon angel. It was an agonising choice which not only required great sacrifice, but risked her life and livelihood!
When the Angel Gabriel appeared to her with the words ‘You have found favour with God’ (Luke 1:30), Mary had a choice. Though Gabriel brought the news that she would conceive, that conception had not yet happened. Mary, in her human state, had free will: she could quite easily have said no. Saying yes meant giving up her reputation, her family, her freedom and her future. Yet she did it anyway.
She said yes because she trusted that God knew better than she did. How often are we tempted to take matters into our own hands and try to manipulate our own lives? Mary reminds us that we are not meant to be in control of our destiny, and that ultimately handing over that control completely to God yields a far greater reward.
Notice that, even though she was being told that something physically impossible was about to happen to her, Mary never doubted. She questioned how, but didn’t doubt whether God could create such an event. ‘How can this be?’ (Luke 1:34). Mary was open to the endless possibilities of God’s power, and willingly gave up the life she had in order to play her intended part in His plan.
Can you truly say ‘I am the Lord’s servant’? How much would you be willing to sacrifice to follow God wherever he asked you to go and obey whatever He asked you to do? As you celebrate Christmas, take time to reflect on your own willingness to take on the challenges God presents you with. Identify the areas in your life where you are still holding onto control by the tips of your fingers, and work towards having the courage to ‘let go and let God’.
Mary laid everything she was and everything she had before God, offering herself totally and utterly to His will. Perhaps we could all aim to live just a little more of that life of ‘yes’.