Mother and Child Smiling
by Mary Cassatt
“I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. May your word to me be fulfilled.” Luke 1:38 NIV
I have seasonal angst. Sharing it makes me feel naked and exposed. As I write these words, I wonder what my family and friends will think. Will I be less of a Christian in their eyes when I admit I wrestle with the Bible, the very book I’ve stood on and prayed from for years?
It’s the virgin birth. I struggle with this concept and wonder how it can be. When I examine the event from a purely intellectual point of view, I find it difficult to accept.
Let’s place the event in the here and now. Picture a sweet 14 -year-old girl, a ninth grader, sitting her parents and boyfriend down to tell them she’s going to have a baby. And oh by the way, the father is not the boyfriend. It’s God, and she’s still a virgin.
A revelation like that would burn through social media like a forest fire in an area of prolonged draught. Twitter would buzz with tweets. The family hounded by reporters. There’d definitely be a book deal. CNN and FOX News would hold panel discussions about the veracity of her story. Congress would demand a hearing. And the presidential press secretary would be forced to respond to questions about the President’s position on it.
Instead of risking a media blitz, God chose to unfold his rescue of mankind quietly two thousand years ago in a small, obscure town called Nazareth. That’s where the angel Gabriel appeared to young Mary to tell her the good news. If you were directing the play, how would you stage this scene? With trumpets blaring and drums booming and a host of angels singing? I’m a minimalist when it comes to theatre. I’d have an almost bare stage with a façade that represented a home from the times, and one young girl standing downstage. That’s it.
In the quiet of the moment after Gabriel told her what was about to happen, there would be a pause for Mary to absorb what she heard, a poignant life-changing silence with the spotlight fixed on her. Then Mary would look up at the angel and ask my question, “How can this be, seeing I’ve known no man?” She’d speak softly as she struggled to grasp the angel’s words. She wouldn’t express herself cynically or with disbelief, but in wonder.
“How can this be?”
Gabriel answers. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God.”
Mary’s response holds the answer. It is a statement for all time, one that I can take to heart. “I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” With humility, she bows in faith to accept the will of God.
The author of Hebrews states it this way: “Without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 RSV) “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.” (Hebrews 11:1-4 RSV)
By faith. Like Mary. Be it done unto me according to your word.
How will I respond? I bow my head and my heart, asking God to reveal the truth of this wonderful time of year to me.
How will you respond? I pray that you’ll have the courage to ask one simple question this Christmas season: “God, is this your son?”
May God’s Christmas Gift fill your hearts with joy this season. Merry Christmas!