In a few days, we will celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Surely you’ve heard the Christmas story all month – how an angel appeared to the virgin Mary and told her she would be with child.
The Catholic Church makes much of Mary. She is venerated above all other saints. Specific doctrines and acts of devotion are dedicated to her. She is called the “Mother of God” and “Queen of Heaven.” She even plays a role in their system of salvation!
What the Bible says about Mary is much simpler. She is a remarkable Christian, to be sure. But we don’t need to elevate her so highly to benefit from her example.
Believing the Impossible
When Gabriel announces that Mary will “conceive and give birth to a son,” she asks, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” He answers, “The Holy Spirit will come on you…For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:31-37). An older translation reads, “For nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary apparently has no trouble believing this. She responds, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (1:38). She doesn’t doubt God’s promise. Rather, she accepts and embraces the impossible. Her faith isn’t hindered by reason. She simply takes God at His Word.
Looking past the Familiar
There is a saying: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This was certainly true for Jesus. Many people didn’t believe Him because they were so used to Him.
His brothers couldn’t look past their familiarity. They don’t believe Him until after His resurrection (John 7:5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). His neighbors couldn’t look past their familiarity either. They reject Him because they had known Him since He was a boy (Matthew 13:53-58).
Mary alone looks past her familiarity. She “treasures up” what is said about Him and “ponders it in her heart,” including what He says about Himself (Luke 2:19, 51). Although she was His mother, she knew by faith He was more than just her child.
Getting in over Her Head
Parenting ordinary children is hard enough. Can you imagine being asked by God to raise His only Son? Mary had no parenting experience; she was a first-time mom! No doubt she felt inadequate and overwhelmed. How did she cope with the pressure?
To put it simply, she trusted God. She and Joseph carefully raise Jesus according to God’s Laws (Luke 2:39, 41). She didn’t think God chose her because she was the perfect mother. Instead, she trusted Him to make Jesus into the man He was supposed to be.
Setting the Bar
Mary challenges us in three ways. First, she challenges us to never stop believing God does impossible things. Second, she challenges us to never let our familiarity with Jesus dull our faith. Third, she challenges us to bite off more than we can chew in accepting whatever task the Lord assigns us.
These are edifying challenges – especially for long-term Christians! But she challenges us in a more profound way than these. She challenges us as Christian parents. Specifically, she challenges us to submit to God’s will for our children.
Do You Really Want Your Kids to Follow Jesus?
Christian parents say they want their kids to follow Jesus. But our resolve is tested when they are old enough to decide what to do with their lives. Many balk at the thought of their child going into ministry or the mission field. Some deliberately discourage it!
Not Mary. She fully supports Jesus as He pursues God’s will. She is part of a group of women who “follow Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs” (Matthew 25:55). She and a few others discover the empty tomb when they go to anoint His body (Luke 24:1-3). And yes, she stands at the foot of the cross while He dies (John 19:25).
Mary reminds us that our children’s lives are in God’s hands, not ours. Will you trust God with your children? Will you encourage them to follow Jesus – no matter what?
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