Every Christmas, we hear the story of a virgin giving birth to a son in a stable. We often focus on Jesus, the full expression of God all wrapped up in a tiny baby, and His life that debuted to the world there in a manger. While we should absolutely celebrate His birthday this Christmas, there is something valuable we can gain by pausing to look at the life of his earthly mother Mary, too.
Now Jesus’ earthly father was a guy named Joseph. Joseph was related to King David of the Old Testament—the one who slayed a giant with a slingshot, penned the book of Psalms, and was known to be a man after God’s own heart. This is important because was the family lineage the prophets had said the Messiah would arrive from, and Joseph was engaged to Mary. The Bible really doesn’t tell us a lot about Mary, but it’s their love story that sets the scene for the Savior to be born.
It’s right there that I love thinking about how God weaves stories like that together into the fabric of His grand, heavenly story. Here’s this girl, Mary, who doesn’t seem to have any extraordinary position, accomplishments, or features for her to stand out from a crowd. Yet God brought Mary and Joseph together in His plan to bring His son into the world, just as He said He would in all the prophecies and promises throughout history.
And though she seems ordinary by the world’s standard, what set Mary apart for God’s perfect plan is her trusting, faithful heart. While we don’t have her backstory, we see her character shine as the story unfolds in the pages of scripture.
We pick up the story where an angel reveals to Mary that she will have a son. Mary, being still a virgin, was as confused as I would expect any of us to be. But once she is reassured about the limitless power of the God’s Spirit and His unfailing Word, she chooses to trust, responding with, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38). Once she shifts her trust from what makes sense to what God has said, a sense of purpose and thankfulness fills her life. A little while after that, we see her burst into praise in Luke 1:46-55, including this snapshot of what had happened in her heart:
For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
For Mary to walk into the great purpose God had for her, she had to have that truth rooted deep inside of her. God wants the same for us – to know that we are loved, called, chosen, blessed, set apart, and have God working in our favor.
Do you trust God with your dream enough to walk in total confidence? He knows our heart, His plan, and how the two interact. In Mary’s story, when a holy plot twist threatened to undermine engagement plans, God protected Mary’s heart and her dream. After Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, the Bible tells us that Joseph “was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly” (Matthew 1:19). But God went before Mary and stood on her behalf, in alignment with His ultimate plan and purpose. I believe this was because of the faith that Mary had to believe what the angel had said. We see in the verses following that “As (Joseph) considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” and reassured him to follow through with the marriage, and so he did. When we trust in God’s plan and purpose for our life, he will clear the roadways and go before us to lay the foundation we need to accomplish His mission. It doesn’t come without challenges—as Mary and Joseph faced loads of those—but He promises to see us through to the end as we stay faithful to trust Him.
Trusting God through the process as He works His plans out through our lives is a journey. One of the most relatable scriptures I’ve found in Mary’s story that sums up what that journey looked like for her is found in Luke 2:18-19:
“All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
Another translation I love says that she “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. There are parts of my life where God speaks to my heart and it’s too much for me to understand in full. Sometimes it’s a collection of dreams, thoughts, and ideas and that aren’t a complete image, but they can begin to come together to form a vision for where God is leading my life. I imagine Mary turning over all these little pieces of the big picture in her mind: the message from the angel, stories from ancient texts, reactions to her son from shepherds and wise men, the miracles Jesus would do in the early parts of his life… I relate to how she might be storing up each piece and starting to see how they fit together. As she gave more thought to them, perhaps she asked God for clarity and understanding. Each chapter in her story sets the stage for Jesus to grow, develop, and fulfill the reason why He came to planet earth. Mary was just an everyday girl, but because her trust, her faithfulness to seek and believe, Mary’s life is known throughout the generations as one of great significance. May our hearts trust in the same way as we ask God to show us where He wants us to go, what He wants us to do, and the reason why we’re here. May we find our significance in the way God tells His story through our lives. Becoming is about believing God through the process, and He can do the amazing in and through us as a result of our trusting heart.