As a child, I never got to play the Virgin Mary in our church Christmas pageant. Yep, I always played an angel in the chorus, never the starring role of Baby Jesus' adoring mom. My inability to land the part seemed more than mere coincidence when I hit a wall in my late twenties called "infertility". As thankful as I was for Jesus giving up heaven to hang out with us on earth - to save us from our steaming pile of sin - I was less than thankful for Christmas' focus on the virgin birth.
Even with a willing husband and a team of specialists, I hadn't been able to achieve "with child" status. No wonder the good virgin looks so happy, I thought. No shots, no timed intercourse, no strangers' hands poking and prodding. It seemed to me that Mary had every reason to smile. Don't be afraid, the angel told her, You are highly favored. It was the exact opposite of how I felt in my current predicament. I felt afraid. I felt abandoned.
As it turns out, however, even in Mary's blessed state, she had questions. How can this be? she asked simply, though she was likely thinking, But I am not married. But what will people think? But I am not equipped to raise this 'Son of the Most High'.
We see the Christmas story unfolding perfectly in hindsight, but Mary had to live that story forward one hour at a time. Unlike us, Mary didn't know the middle. She didn't know the end. And yet she chose to trust in the one who could see. She placed her confidence in the God who had promised to bring her through and to reveal all things in due time. From Mary's heart of submission, she lifted a song of praise. You can read this Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55. It reveals the heart of a young girl who chose to express her faithfulness even in a cloud of uncertainty.
How about you? Are you praising between the rock and the hard place or perseverating on your doubt and confusion? Even during Christmas' difficult celebrations and constant reminders of what we lack, even without a pregnant belly or the baby we long for, we can follow Mary's blueprint for hope.
So what principles contained in Mary's song can guide us this season?
Mary declared God's greatness before she witnessed his provision.
46 And Mary said: "My soul exalts the Lord, (Luke 1:46)
Feeling follows behavior. Are you spending time declaring God's goodness and trusting that your reason for celebration will come?
2. A joyful spirit
Mary had a spirit of rejoicing, knowing that God would work things out for good.
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
When you are tempted to grumble, do you instead pray for a spirit of joy?
Knowing the road could be difficult, Mary laid down her own desires in order to serve God, assured that it would bring the ultimate blessing.
48 "For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
Can you put aside your own goals to consider a different path God might be nudging you to take?
4. Trust in God's unlimited power (not your own)
Mary recognized God as all powerful, able to accomplish far greater things than she could imagine
49 "For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
Do you recognize God's power not only to answer prayers, but to turn his desires into your desires? To make something you view as impossible, possible?
Mary trusted that her obedience would reveal God's kindness and character to multitudes she would never meet
50 and his mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear him.
Is obedience to God -- rather than your ability to control every outcome -- your testimony?
6. Reliance on God
Mary recognized her (and the world's) need for a savior
51 "He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 "He has brought down rulers from their thrones, And has exalted those who were humble.
53 "He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.
54 "He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy,
55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever."
Are you relying on yourself to fix the problem or relying on Christ's power to fix your heart?
I'm preaching to myself here today, friends. By choice, I left infertility in the dust ten years ago. That doesn't mean my control-freak self doesn't still wrestle with God over his lordship in my life. I often want to place my hands on my hips, stomp my foot and holler, This life is mine, mine, mine and you can't have it!
Mary reminds us that our lives are not our own and that's ok. Why? Because we can trust a savior who left heaven's comfort to ensure that every one of our stories has an ending filled with hope. Like Mary carried the Christ child, we can nurture the hope of Christ within us and delight in sharing its shining truth with the world.
P.S. All images are from the movie, The Nativity Story, which is well worth your time to watch this season!