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Explore: Celebrate Jesus at Christmas!

• The Explore the Bible lesson for Dec. 22 focuses on Luke 1:30-35, 38, 46-49; 2:4-7.

Mary is an interesting biblical character. Over the years, some have erred on the side of making too big a deal about Mary. Unfortunately, many others have erred by not giving her due credit. We tend to downplay the fact God favored her, because we do not want to be “lumped in” with those who take things too far. We can learn a great deal from Mary in her encounter with the angel, as well as the calling God placed on her life. We can see three truths about Mary’s life to help us in our own walk with God.

Seeing ourselves as “favored”

Several times throughout these verses, we are told Mary either was “favored” or “blessed.” It begins with the conversation with the angel, where the word “favored” is mentioned twice. Elizabeth also called Mary “blessed” twice in their conversation. Even in Mary’s own song, she acknowledges everyone will call her “blessed” throughout future generations. To be favored by God means you know God loves you, God wants to have a relationship with you, and he has a plan or purpose for your life. It is my conviction Mary believed God had a plan for her life even before the angel came. She might not have known the specifics, but she knew God wanted to do something special with her life.

Mary is not the only one who is favored. God loves each one of us, wants a relationship with us and has a purpose for each of our lives. We are favored by God. We never will be called on to be the father or mother of the Savior of the world, but that does not mean God has nothing he wants to accomplish in our lives.

Seeing ourselves as favored or blessed is important for our walk with God. Famous verses of Scripture like Isaiah 40:29-31 tell us this: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.”

What does it mean to “hope in the Lord?” It means when we believe in God’s love and God’s purpose for our lives, our strength will be renewed. There is power in believing God is for you and not against you. There is power in knowing that you were born for a purpose—God’s purpose.

Seeing the faithfulness of God

As we read these familiar passages of Scripture, something new can stand out to us. Luke 1:37 is not in the focal passage, but it is important in understanding Mary’s response in verse 38: “‘For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.”

Mary asked the angel how this was possible, since she was a virgin. The angel’s response was basically, “Because God said so.” That was enough for Mary. Again, even in her song (vv. 46-55) notice how Mary’s response to God is based on how reliable God has been in the past. God can be trusted to do something amazing in Mary’s life because he has been so faithful in the past.

God can be trusted to lift the humble up even while bringing down the proud. God can be trusted to reward the faithfulness of his people. God can be trusted to provide great things for those who are willing to keep their trust in him. Seeing God’s past faithfulness inspired Mary’s response here in this passage, and it should inspire us as well.

Seeing our “surrender”

Ultimately, what was Mary’s response to God’s call in her life? Surrender! Mary’s words, “May your word to me be fulfilled,” reminds us of Jesus’ own words in the garden: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

One of the greatest virtues we can learn from Mary and try to imitate in our own lives is surrender. Based on her ability to see God’s favor on her life and God’s faithfulness to honor all his servants, Mary decided it was best to give herself completely to God. This was not any easier for her than for anybody else. She also had a set of plans for the rest of her life. In the end, she knew her journey would not be easy, but it would be blessed. And that made all the difference in her mind. This should be the deciding factor in our lives as well.

       
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