First Things First

Have you heard a reading of the Christmas story yet this year? Maybe seen a dramatization on TV or in a children’s Christmas pageant? I love the awe-inspiring events just like most believers, however the problem is that we tend to think about the people in it only in context of the verses in Luke 2. But think about Mary specifically… Until that point, she was just a young Jewish girl living a normal life in the first century… likely, dreaming of her upcoming marriage and a new future stretching out before her. Then, God interrupted her life, and from that point forward, everything about her changed… her future, her plans, her ideas for marriage were dramatically altered in an instant.

Now, we’re tempted to think that somehow it must have been easy for her. After all, she did have an angel show up to tell her what was going to happen. But in reality, becoming the mother of the Savior wasn’t without difficulty. Scripture tells us that Joseph didn’t immediately believe her fantastic story, and had instead decided to quietly break their engagement. (Matt 1:19) The Scripture tells us that God sent an angel to him in his dreams to set him straight, but there were no celestial explanations for her family, friends, or other neighbors. And just because this happened a long time ago doesn’t mean that they couldn’t count. It was going to be obvious that this child was conceived before the wedding, and the implications meant that she would be ostracized or even worse.

‘L’annonciation’ ~ J. Tissot (circa 1886-1894)

But instead of resisting or responding to this impossible situation in fear, she answers with a simple question… “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (vs 34) She doesn’t doubt God, but instead questions herself and her circumstances.

This is all too familiar territory for most of us. We honestly believe in our hearts that God can do anything, accomplish any task, change or transform any situation. The problem is often that we doubt ourselves. We are intimately aware of our own attitudes, failures, shortcomings and weaknesses. So today, almost two thousand years after the angel visited Mary, our questions to God sound eerily similar…. How can this be since I am a just a mother, a wife, a husband, an employer, or employee? How can this be since I am untrained, inexperienced, not well spoken or without significant resources?  How can this be since I am too old, too young, too weary or in too much pain?

We look within ourselves and see lack, and as a result we disbelieve that God can significantly use us, or that we can become a part of what He is doing in the world.

God’s assurance for Mary is also ours… For nothing is impossible with God.” – Luke 1:37

This affirmation reminds us that not to spontaneously charge out and do anything by ourselves. While we do have a part to play,  God is the one who does through us, in us and for us what is necessary to get any divinely-inspired job done.

With that truth in view, regardless of our fears, we’ll do well to respond just as Mary did.

“I am the Lord’s servant … May it be to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38

In the midst of her questions, Mary surrendered her future, her marriage, her reputation, and even her body to be used as her Lord willed… even when it looked very different than she imagined. And it’s at that point, God’s plan unfolded. However, most of us invert the pattern Mary’s response presents.  We are quick to ask questions and look to receive a transforming moment and only then are willing to surrender our lives to the Lord. But in reality, surrender always comes before true transformation.

If you want more out of your relationship with the Lord, it is available. Ask Him for it, and believe He will give it. But be prepared to do first things first.

In retrospect, would Mary have felt that what she gave up was worth what she (and through her, the entire world) gained? Absolutely! And if you could see the benefits and ultimate blessings of yielding yourself to the Lord, you’d say the same thing.

So, as we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ, if your heart’s desire is to be truly and effectively used by God in the coming year (and beyond), first strive to adopt the same attitude as Mary. Be willing, and even eager to surrender yourself (your plans and desires) and “serve by the strength God supplies, so that in everything God may be glorified.” (1 Peter 4:11)



3 thoughts on “First Things First

  1. That’s a great point about Mary surrendering before she had answers – whereas I tend to do the opposite. Very thought provoking. I want to be like Mary!

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