Advent Reflection – Week 4
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” (Luke 1:38)
In this last week of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas, there is much that we can learn from Mary concerning faith. The angel Gabriel visited Mary and gave her the unexpected news that she would give birth to Jesus, the eternal Savior and King (Luke 1:26-33). This is epic, front page, earth-shattering news! But, how? How would a virgin give birth? The angel tells her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (1:35). “For nothing will be impossible with God” (1:37).
In this moment, the fulfillment of the ancient promise is taking place – “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isa.7:14). Not only does Mary witness the fulfillment of a promise, but she is the instrument by which the promise is fulfilled! It is only natural that her response would be “greatly troubled” (1:29). What be the result of all of this? What would Joseph think? Would this ruin her soon to be marriage? What would the people say about her “unplanned pregnancy”? Would her reputation be ruined? What does it look like to give birth to God?
Though these fears, and more, probably abounded, Mary’s response is one of humble faith. She says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.” In Mary’s statement we find a model and definition of faith.
Firstly, her faith is marked by humility. Mary’s response is one of submission and obedience. She recognizes that God is God and she is not. The Protestant Reformer, John Calvin, wrote, “This is the real proof of faith, when we restrain our minds, and, as it were, hold them captive, so that they dare not reply this or that to God: for boldness in disputing, on the other hand, is the mother of unbelief.” Mary doesn’t put God on trial. She sees God rightly, and therefore sees herself rightly. This is a model for every Christian at all times, and especially during the season of Advent. As we learn to wait on the Lord, as we live by faith, we must do so with humble resignation. In whatever season of life, in whatever frame of mind, we must say “I am the Lord’s servant. May His purposes for me be fulfilled.”
Secondly, her faith holds a trust in the sovereignty of God. Though the future looked scary and complex, she believed that God knew the end from the beginning. She knew that God’s perspective was all-encompassing, and her’s was short-sighted and short-lived. She knew that just as God raised up people in the past for His purposes, He would continue to move His plan along in His own time and His own way. She entrusted herself to His sovereignty.
Thirdly, her faith was set upon the goodness of God. Mary could trust in God’s sovereign purposes, because she trusted in the goodness of His character. The Apostle Paul pairs these truths together beautifully in Galatians 4:4-5. He writes, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (ESV). In the fullness of time, God revealed His goodness. He sent forth from His side the Beloved Son who had known deep communion with Him from eternity. He sent His Son on a mission – to pay an infinite price for His people, so they could be adopted by God and given the same deep communion He had known for eternity. In the incarnation of Christ, we see God coming down to a slave market where people are in bondage to sin. At the cross, we see Him pay the price of His very own blood, to buy us out of that slavery and make us part of His family. What does this tell us about God? He is full of goodness and mercy.
No matter what happens, the Christmas season reminds us that we, like Mary, can have a humble faith that is centered on the sovereign goodness of God. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom.8:32)
[blog picture: The Annunciation by Fra Angelico, ca.1450]