Often, when we think of the Christmas story, we gloss over Mary. The focus is on the baby Jesus, the angels, the shepherds, and the wisemen. We envision mangers and camel rides. But the Christmas story is so much richer than that. We have a villain – Herod. But more importantly, we have a heroine – Mary.
What is impressive about Mary isn’t simply that she gave birth to Jesus. God could have chosen any young woman to do that. What is impressive is how she carried herself with grace and maturity when faced with an incredibly difficult situation. Her story is rich with lessons for how we can better live our lives, even when faced with adversity.
Consider the following lessons from Mary’s story, and think about how you might apply them in your own life.
Trust God in All Things
When the archangel Gabriel comes to Mary, just a young teenage girl, and tells her that she is going to become pregnant out of wedlock, Mary naturally should be alarmed. Given the patriarchal society in which she lives, she should be upset and frightened as to what is going to happen to her. But Mary trusts God.
How often in fearful situations do we fail to do the same? For example, a couple of years ago, after a surgery, my husband unexpectedly had to be placed on life support. I was incredibly scared that he wouldn’t make it. Instead of trusting God, I was overwhelmed with fear.
But that isn’t the right response when facing a difficult situation. The right response is Mary’s: Trust God. Trust that regardless of what happens, God will be with you. Trust that He will provide you with the courage to face any adversity.
Mary trusted God, and He led her through her difficulties. He changed Joseph’s mind about divorcing her. He led her to a place of safety where she could give birth. When we trust God, as Mary did, He will guide us through any challenge.
Believe in Miracles
Today we live in an age of increasing cynicism. People like to question everything from the Christmas Story to whether Jesus actually lived. Folks have such an utter lack of imagination that they can’t believe anything that they can’t see with their own eyes.
Mary believed in miracles. When the archangel Gabriel told her that she would get pregnant, even though she was a virgin, she believed him. She believed in the impossible because if God had ordained it, it must be so.
We would do well to have Mary’s faith in miracles these days. The world would have us view our lives as flat and uninspired. If things don’t add up, like 2 + 2 = 4, then the world will tell you it isn’t possible. What an utterly dull way to view life.
Miracles happen all around us. From the changing of the seasons to the safe birth of a child, we are constantly surrounded by miracles. When you feel the need to call someone, and they say, “Wow. I was just thinking of you,” that is a miracle.
Each day, miracles occur. We are just too cynical to see them. Let go of the world’s cynicism. Be like Mary. Believe in the miracles that are put before you.
Serve God, Not the World
When the archangel Gabriel tells Mary that she is going to have a baby even though she is still a virgin, her response in Luke 1:38 is “I am the Lord’s servant.” In that moment Mary makes a choice. She chooses to serve God, not the world.
Mary effectively says, “I know that people are not going to believe that I am a virgin. I know that Joseph may leave me. I know that society may shun me for having a baby without a husband. But I am not going to serve society. I am going to serve God.”
So often, we are presented with the same choice. Shall we serve God or society? We make this choice every time we spend our money. Do we use our money to serve God and help others? Or do we use our money to buy clothes, cars and houses to impress other people?
We make this choice with how we spend our time. Do we spend some time each day in prayer or in reading spiritually uplifting books? Or is our free time consumed with the Internet and television? Do we spend Sunday morning at church, or do we spend it at the mall?
We would do well to consider Mary’s example and choose to serve God. If we do so, when we look back on our lives, we will find that they were more fulfilling and more meaningful simply by making that one small choice.
Mary is the epitome of flexibility. When told that she will have a baby even though she is a virgin, she rolls with it. When she is told that there is no room at the inn, she has her baby in a manger, without much fuss. Mary and I are opposites in that matter.
Unlike Mary, I am incredibly inflexible. If I’d been the mother of Jesus, a large part of the Gospel of Luke would have been devoted to me chewing out Joseph for not getting a reservation in advance of our trip to Bethlehem. And the archangel Gabriel would have gotten a piece of my mind, as well, when he came to me with his “good news” that I was going to have a baby out of wedlock. Thank goodness God chose Mary.
But Mary’s approach is the right one. Being flexible in life is the key to happiness. Life will throw you curve balls. It simply doesn’t go according to plan. And if you can’t be flexible and roll with it, you will spend a large part of your life being frustrated and miserable. Better to take life as it comes, and try to be happy even when the unexpected occurs.
Mary is a wonderful role model for all of us. She is an example grace under pressure and faith in difficult circumstances. She is truly the heroine of the Christmas story.