This past Sunday I asked the teenage girls in my small group to imagine getting the news that Mary received when she was visited by the angel. For them, stepping into Mary's shoes would be a small step. Most of them are in circumstances similar to Mary's in many ways:
They are young, innocent, from deeply religious families--on the brink of adult life, but not quite ready.
What would their response be if they were told that they would become pregnant--supernaturally, but out of wedlock? (I know unmarried pregnancy is not so scandalous these days, but these are Southern Baptists...) How would they feel to receive today the news that Mary got? God Himself was going to be placed within her, grow, expand her, pain her as she brought Him into the world...and ultimately save us all.
How would they react if they received this news:
"God is going to use you to save the world, but it is going to hurt on every level. But--GOD is going to use YOU to save. the. world."
My point in stirring their imaginations was to show them the beauty of Mary's response. Faced with such daunting, life-altering news, she sang the Magnificat--a beautiful hymn of praise, trust and celebration.
"Blessed am I...."
Today as I sit in the quiet and think on the nativity again, I am floored by this thought:
I'm no teenager, but I am more like Mary than I realize.
Having repented and followed Christ, I am like Mary in that I received God within me though the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
God Himself is within me, and if I allow it--if I nourish and attend to the Spirit, He will grow and stretch me. As a result, I'll experience great excitement, purpose, anticipation and joy--but the stretching will also bring discomfort.
When I share the Spirit in me with the world, it will very likely cause me pain. This world is certainly a place that often shouts, "No room!" to His presence. The current culture has no problem with the Universe looking out for me, but squirms if I claim the God of the universe does. Therefore, for me--an educated woman from an intellectual and scientific community-- to follow the God of the Bible will no doubt bring me disdain in the eyes of many whom I value. Disdain hurts.
So, I realize today I must ask myself the same question I asked the teenagers:
What will my response be to the news that God has chosen me to carry His Son to the world?
Will I fear the discomfort, attempt to escape the pain, and lament the heavy load I carry within?
Or will I--in spite of it all--be awed by the reality that God would use me to save the world.
Oh, Jesus, let the words and heart of that young Mary also be the response of this old Mary:
"Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl...."