Sober tears flooded my eyes as I listened to my pastor teach the familiar Christmas story. It’s easy to let the spectacular fade with familiarity, but all that changed when I became a mother seven years ago, and my heart ached for the loss Mary, an ordinary woman with an otherworldly Child, would face.
Nestling my new baby boy close to my bosom, I shut my eyes, breathed deeply and imagined how Mary felt as she held the promised Savior (she’s holding the Savior!!!). Was she raptured in worship as she beheld the Son of God? Did she sigh in relief when pregnancy was over, that her body would no longer be an obvious declaration to her community of a perceived transgression?
Any of these may be true, but perhaps she was filled with the same simple and protective love, that fierce love that overcomes anything that might do harm to a mother’s child, that I felt holding my new son. Yet, eight days into her new role, a seed of warning was planted in her heart and mind.
When Joseph and Mary presented baby Jesus at the temple in Jerusalem, Simeon, a just and devout man, approached them and gave a blessing and prophecy:
“…Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35 NKJ).
Accounts don’t tell us if Mary stood by the common Jewish belief that the Savior would arrive, conquer Israel’s enemies and reign on earth, or if she believed her Savior son would suffer and face a brutal and shameful death. Regardless, Simeon’s words about her soul would likely come to mind throughout Jesus’ life. As Mary worshipfully raised Jesus, how often did her mind return to the recurring thought about Simeon’s warning?
And don’t we also fret?
We find ourselves anxious about every aspect of our world. Unrest isn’t an isolated experience pinned to a spot on the map. Every country, community, and family are pressed by danger and opposition of some kind. Do we linger on our anxiety and try to shield ourselves, or do we act as Mary did, bravely continuing to serve God in the time and space He has placed us?
The year I became a mother was the year I realized Mary’s boldness, courage, and strength were examples to follow.
Boldly Mary accepts her role as the Messiah’s mother. She didn’t hem and haw over her qualifications and insecurities; she confidently tells the angel, “Behold, the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38 NKJ).
God has given me roles and responsibilities, and I keep handing them back, “Um God, you have the wrong woman.” My insecurities prevent me from living boldly for God; they are a barrier to the work God has for me and the blessings He wishes to give.
Courageously, Mary socially disgraced her reputation and kept her baby. I’ll never forget my mom explaining that when girls got pregnant outside the marriage covenant, they were shipped off until the baby was born. That was 50 years ago. Even when I was in high school, girls who were pregnant were gossiped about.
It’s hard to believe that just 20 years ago, pregnancy outside of the marriage covenant was still taboo. Today, American women choose to have babies out of wedlock and even opt-in to be single mothers.
Any woman that can stand in her innocence though given a scarlet letter by the judging public is courageous. Many details are unaccounted for in the Bible, but I don’t think it is a stretch to believe Mary faced social persecution for her perceived indiscretion from observers in Bethlehem as she and Joseph did a walk of shame into town.
I wonder, how many people I have judged by unfairly looking at the superficial or believing manipulated ideas? Would I have stood by Mary’s side, encouraging her despite the general public’s perspective and Jewish law suggested?
Mary’s focus was intent on serving the Lord; apart from that, she was likely ordinary. Because she kept her eyes on the Lord, she had the strength to endure the social accusations.
A prophecy that would otherwise turn a woman into an anxious basket case didn’t. Mary was strong. Our uncertain world once left me an anxious wreck but turning to examples like Mary, I find myself reassured and able to live in the power of the Lord.
What’s extraordinary is that you and I have the same ability to be bold, courageous, and strong! Mary is a practical example of how living in God’s strength will have eternal implications for the world around us. How we engage life reflects to the world the Savior Mary birthed.