May It Be

I don't know about you, but I have plans for my life. I've been dreaming dreams and making plans for myself ever since I was a kid. Plans about where I want to go, plans about things I want to do, and plans about who I want to be. Sometimes, many times, my plans don't work out. God has different ideas. I don't always take that well.

As I was reading the Christmas Story, I couldn't help but think that Mary, the mother of Jesus, probably had some plans herself. She was engaged, after all, and was most certainly thinking about and planning her wedding and the items she would need to take into her new household. Whether she and Joseph loved each other, we don't know, but I can't help think that she was looking into the future, thinking about her roles as a wife, mistress of her home, and - some day -a mother.

Talk about a change of plans, then, when an angel appears to her:

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Yup, that's the sound of plans changing.

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.

Ha. No kidding!

The angel proceeds to tell her that she was to give birth to the Messiah and that her Aunt Elizabeth, who was barren and up in years, was also pregnant. Wow.

Mary and Joseph lived in today's equivalent of a small town. She must have known how people would talk, what they would say about her. She must have wondered what Joseph would think about all this; after all, they weren't just engaged, they were betrothed. That meant that she was legally his wife - they just hadn't had the wedding ceremony yet. She must have known she would live the rest of her life amidst knowing looks and wagging tongues. Did she panic? Did she freak out? No, according to the Bible, her response was,

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said."

She didn't hesitate. She didn't ask for time to think it over. She didn't talk back about how inconvenient this was for her. She simply accepted.

How can this be? How can someone have all of their plans stripped away and replaced by a badge of shame and STILL glorify God? How does she, after one conversation, push all of her dreams aside with such a calm and noble attitude?

We are given a clue in verses 46 through 56, in the 1st chapter of Luke:

And Mary said:

"My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm:
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.

Sounds to me like Mary was a woman of faith. Mary may have been from a small town, but she was no dummy. She knew the promises of God. And she was smart enough to know to overlook her personal afflictions and hassles and focus instead on the fulfillment of those promises. She knew she was a part of something greater. She saw her role for what it was: an honor and a blessing.

I have a feeling the plan-changing didn't stop here for Mary. After all, Jesus was the Messiah, but he wasn't the Messiah the people thought he would be. He didn't come in earthly riches and power. He lived 30 years in the same little town his parents were raised, probably working as a carpenter in his father's shop. Mary didn't get to live a life of queenly splendor. She became the wife of a poor carpenter and the mother of several children. There was no glory or honor. No bestsellers or speaking tours. No entourage or celebrity status. She probably spent her days wiping noses and keeping house.

Many historians believe she was widowed some time before Jesus started his ministry. I'm guessing that wasn't something she had dreamed for herself.

She often accompanied Jesus on his travels. Travel was hard in those days. I doubt it was how she thought she'd spend her later years. That's hardly the retirement most of us long for.

She was at the foot of the cross when her eldest son was crucified. That probably wasn't in her plan book either. Did it feel like a defeat? Was there a part of her that questioned God? No matter how great her faith, I cannot help but think about how heartbroken and grieved she must have been. Even after he had ascended into heaven, it must have been hard on her. Sure, her son wasn't dead, but she wouldn't see him for the rest of her life on earth, either.

Mary isn't revered simply because she was a human vessel for the Messiah, but because of her willingness to serve God - no matter what that looked like and no matter what the cost. For all of the trials and hardships, there was immeasurable blessings as well; the blessing of being an integral part of the work of the creator of the universe. The honor of a holy, eternal God choosing a lowly here-today-gone-tomorrow human to partner with him in his plan for all of mankind. I'm so glad she had the wisdom to see that.

The same deal is offered us today. Maybe not to raise the Son of God, but to raise sons and daughters of God. We, too, are invited to partner with God to usher in his kingdom. We don't have to be perfect, or wealthy, or highly educated. We just have to be willing.

"I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said."


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