There is something so warm and comforting in the tradition of rereading the Christmas story each December. It’s a story that is so familiar because we see movies, watch plays, and attend candlelight Christmas Eve services each year that celebrates the birth of Christ. However, in the familiarity of the gospel story there is always new revelation to discover as we dig into scripture. One of these rhema words, you know those moments the Holy Spirit is speaking straight to your soul, came to me a few years ago as I read Luke 1:26-36. The angel Gabriel comes to Mary. Scripture clearly lets us know that she is betrothed and a virgin. Since we have never experienced a culture where there are arranged marriages, allow me to give a little background. What Luke was communicating to his audience was that she was in covenant with someone, the bride price and the dowry had been paid but the wedding day had not occurred yet. She was in a season of preparation for her groom and while his job was to build a place for her attached to his family’s home, her job was to prove her purity. This was a vital part of this honor-shame way of life.
Going back to the narrative, Gabriel appears to Mary and says, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” The next part is what really stuck out to me. It says, “Mary was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be”. This seems so odd. In our western American-dream culture we would immediately be wondering what amazing blessings we were about to receive with this newly announced favor! Would we be getting that dream job, dream home, dream man? Would we be so favored to have a large platform to influence millions of people? I think we would be dancing and celebrating our victory. But Mary was not only troubled, she was deeply troubled. The angel goes on to speak over her that she will conceive and give birth to a son. His name would be Jesus and He would be great. He would be called Son of the Most High and His kingdom will have no end. Again…wouldn’t that be incredibly exciting? That would be even bigger and better than a social media platform or a dream job! To a 14 year old girl in the east those words meant something entirely different. In an honor-shame culture it would mean that she was potentially about to be publically divorced and shunned by the entire community because no one would believe she was still pure.
This weight would be far too heavy for any young girl to carry, but Gabrial states in verse 35 that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. The Holy Spirit will give us the power we need to accomplish our God given calling. Mary responds so bravely and full of faith “I am the Lord’s slave, May it be done to me according to your word.” What a response. She chose without hesitation to walk in obedience and humility no matter what the cost would be. I have to stop here and evaluate my own heart and life and I invite you to do the same. Do I respond the same way Mary did when I am asked to make a great sacrifice for the kingdom? Do I quickly give up the favor bestowed upon me in order to take a safer path? Do I fully trust Him enough to pick up my cross to follow Him? I mean a cross is heavy, and has splinters and leads to TORTURE! Am I ready for the highly favored life? I want with everything within me to say “I am the Lord’s slave.” I have the Holy Spirit living inside of me, and so do you if you have chosen to follow Jesus. So what are we waiting for! Here we are Lord, use us.