I have been pastoring for 31 years now, and have probably written 80-90 Christmas sermons. Sometimes it's hard not to repeat things, although Scripture makes it clear that "reminders" are to be the norm for the Christian (just do a concordance search for the words "remind" and "reminder"). Last year I did a series on "Christmas in Isaiah" (a study that I greatly enjoyed). This year my thoughts return to the Christmas story in Luke--specifically the announcement to Mary and her stunning response recorded in Luke 1:38, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word."
This Sunday (Dec 4) we're going to reflect on the backstory that accompanies this declaration. Mary had her life planned out in the way we all nurture future expectations. I would speculate that her plans included these points:
1. I will marry Joseph the Carpenter.
2. I will have several children.
3. I will build friendships with other women in Nazareth.
4. I will enjoy a reasonably long life, hopefully with Joseph, our children, and our grandchildren--whose lives will be relatively free from trouble (I have to add this, because every parent desires it).
5. I will be respected in the community where I build my life (If we fantasize a bit, she might have thought, "I love weddings. One day maybe I'll plan weddings and involve my children on the beverage side!").
Whatever she might have included on her list, Mary would certainly have expectations and hopes for her life. And then, the angel showed up. And God the Spirit implanted the divine Seed within her. Her statement of submission ("be it done to me") is one of the most potentially costly statements of commitment to God's will contained in the Bible. How would this commitment derail all her plans--at least as far as she knew?
1. Marriage to Joseph? No; he would refuse her now.
2. Future children? No. Marriage would be out of the question. No one else would have her.
3. Friendships with other women? No; she would be a moral outcast.
4. Future happy family life? No; she was yielding those dreams.
5. Future respect? No. In fact, after the baby was born, she might be stoned as an adulteress.
Sometimes you face a decision that becomes a watershed moment, in which your decision so defines your life that nothing after that moment will ever be the same. You may not be young like Mary, you may be old. You may be either male or female. You may be married or single. It doesn’t matter. God steps in and touches our lives in ways we never expect. He takes our "list" and then erases some things, and maybe adds other things. Have you ever had a defining moment that set the course for everything that followed after?
What’s on your list? I know you have one--whether it's articulated or not, we all have certain expectations for the future. So how will you react when God messes with your personal agenda and changes your list? We don't know what He will bring into our lives...
o It may be an amazing opportunity.
o It may be the ravages of a disease.
o It may be financial hardship.
o It may be a financial windfall.
o It may be problems in your marriage that you didn’t expect to show up.
o It may be a child that rises to national prominence in a wonderful way you didn’t expect (like Mary's son, Jesus)
o It may be a child that rises to national prominence in an awful way, with tragic consequences, that you would never wish on your child (again, like Mary's son, Jesus)
God had a bigger plan, an eternal plan, for Mary's personal agenda: her son, God's Son, came to redeem all who place their faith in Him. Including Mary.
When you come to your own defining moment, how will you respond? Really, for a believer, it comes down to one response: “Lord, I’m yours. Use me.” In Mary’s terminology, Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word."