Advent Series, part III – Mary

In the previous two posts, I drew a link between our yearning for life rather than barrenness with that evidenced in the lives of Zechariah and Elizabeth. God responded to their longing for a child by blessing them with John the Baptist. He was the immediate answer to Zechariah’s intercessory prayer for Elizabeth’s barrenness; however, God had a greater purpose with John the Baptist’s birth, life, and ministry. His sole reason for living had been to herald the first coming of the Messiah as foretold in the Old Testament: Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1a, 4:5-6. God designed John the Baptist’s birth, life, and ministry to point men to the Messiah, who was the answer to the barrenness within all men and women and creation. Now, we turn our attention to Mary, God’s chosen vessel for bringing the Messiah into the world.

Luke wrote in the first chapter of his gospel that Mary hailed from the city of Nazareth, which resided within Galilee (Luke 1:26, ESV). Several of the first apostles selected by Jesus came from Galilee. For example, Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen by trade, which provided our Savior’s classic line, “I will make you fishers of men” (Matt 4:18-22, ESV). The apostle John composed his gospel long after many of his peers had passed away. He included a wonderful vignette between Nathaniel and Philip, wherein the former wondered aloud if Nazareth had the capability of producing anything good (John 1:45-46, ESV). Why do I mention these tidbits about the first apostles being fishermen in Galilee, and Nathaniel expressing disdain for Nazareth?

Mary lived in what I would describe as a working class city that provoked strong feelings of disdain in her fellow countrymen. She was not from Athens, or Rome, or Alexandria, or Jerusalem or any culturally reputable city. She lived in a place that people avoided like the plague. The common view of Nazareth may have sounded something like this: “Why do you want to go that city? There are others much more picturesque and representative of God’s people than Nazareth.” Maybe this meant that it was a foolish act on God’s part to choose Mary, a Galilean from Nazareth. The following words ring loud and clear from the apostle Paul: “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:28-29, ESV).

On paper, Mary did not have much to offer to the world. She lived in the worst section of the worst part of town. None of that fazed the Lord one bit nor did it faze Mary. When Gabriel greeted her, and then explained to her God’s plan for her life, she humbly accepted her role as the Lord’s servant (Luke 1:28-38, ESV). It is my belief that Mary’s humble response is what God saw in her. When Gabriel said to her, “Greetings, O favored one,” he wasn’t expressing his feelings to her (Luke 1:28, ESV). The angel delivered to Mary how God saw her. He favored her, and ordained her as the woman worthy to carry the Messiah for nine months. Mary responded to God’s favor with a soft heart toward the work of his hands, and by believing in faith that God would bring about this wonderful plan.

Lastly, Mary visited Elizabeth, her relative. There’s tremendous joy between these two. Both were lowly in their respective conditions: Mary due to where she lived and Elizabeth due to her barrenness. Despite their lowliness, God raised them up by his power in order to use them in bringing about his greater purposes and plans. From Mary, God brought forth the Messiah, the Son of David, who’s kingdom has no end. From Mary came the Savior, the ransom for many, who took away the reproach of his people. From Mary, God gave the fulfillment of life overturning barrenness forever. Immanuel, God with us, He is the King. He is the Lord of Lords. “He is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13, ESV). And all God’s people said, Amen.

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