Recently, I went outside for a bit at night… the stars were out, and there was one (a planet, probably) that was especially bright. It brought to mind the star that shown when Jesus was born… and I remembered the movie “The Nativity”– particularly the part where Mary agrees to carry Christ in her womb.
And I wondered… would I have done it? Would I have said yes? Would I have agreed to be laughed at, to be shunned, to be thought impure and foolish? Would I have agreed to lay down my reputation? My way of life? Would I have agreed to give up my friends? My family, in a way? Would I have agreed to risk being killed for a perceived action? Would I have agreed to look completely foolish for something I really had no way of knowing the end of?
Or would I have been too concerned with myself, with my image? Would I have been too concerned about appearing pure and blameless? Would I have been too scared to face the shame and mockery?
I don’t know, honestly. I might very well have said, “I can’t do it, it’s too hard, that’s not a good idea, what will everyone think?”
(Though, of course, I’ve never talked to an angel. That might put a bit of a different light on the matter.)
Listen to Mary’s response after her initial questioning…
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.
Simple. So simple. And so full of trust and surrender. She knew who she was– and, more importantly, who God was. And she let God do what He wanted with her. She was willing to be considered impure and insane for God’s sake and at His word.
And think… think what a blessing she gained. What a blessing we gained! It didn’t make a bit of sense, at the time. But now, looking back on it all… it makes so much sense we rarely see how crazy it was.
Of course Mary had Jesus. We’ve heard it over and over.
But… there really was a girl. A girl. Named Mary. Scared, clueless. She couldn’t see what would happen. And yet she opened herself up to God. She… let Him… make her look foolish in the world’s eyes.
And… she is now most blessed among women.
How could she do it? We really don’t know a whole lot about her. But then… we don’t need to know a whole lot. What she did, on its own, says volumes. The fact that God chose her says tons. And then… we have her song. Listen to her heart…
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
What do you notice?
I see… a heart totally enthralled with God. And very much not focused on herself. I don’t know about you, but if God chose me to do that… I don’t think I would be saying things about my “low estate”… I would be thinking more along the lines of, wow, I must be pretty good to have been chosen. 😛
All her focus is on God and the great things He has done for her. And at this point she still probably didn’t really know what exactly what was going on!
Seriously, think about it, my fellow Good Christian Girls. Don’t we want to be known for our purity and our wonderfulness? I do.
But… it isn’t about us. It’s about God. And you know… the thing about God is… He loves doing things completely backwards from the world’s thinking.
Mary was humbled, and then glorified. Sounds an awful lot like… her Son. And it doesn’t make any sense, really….
Think about the way He came to earth. The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Creator Himself… coming as a baby?? Surely, at least, He would come as baby to some good home–but no! He came appearing as an illegitimate child!? And think how He conquered death and sin and satan!! By… dying, naked, on a cross?? It doesn’t make sense, humanly speaking.
Guess who hated Jesus the most? The religious leaders. The Good Church People.
Guess who most hates sold-out-for-Christ, Spirit-filled Christians– the ones who don’t care a particle what the world thinks? . . . Yeah. You know already.
“Can’t they like… tone it down? Do they have to be SO different?? Can’t they… blend in a little? Must they really be so radical? Do they have to do such strange things?”
Face, folks. Following Christ whole-heartedly gets our sanity questioned. It might even lose us the respect of the Good Christian People we know.
Do we really suppose that following a Man who upset the the religious institution in just about every way possible, the Man who ate with sinners, the Man who was perfect and yet died a criminal’s death, the Man who…. basically did everything differently from others… will be easy and normal and well accepted?
What does it actually mean to follow this Man? We sing “I have decided to follow Jesus”… but what does it mean? What is the cost?
Are we really willing to accept the ridicule and the shame and the hardship and the suffering and the being misunderstood?
Are we willing to follow Him… all the way?
He died, you know. It says deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him.
The cross isn’t some cute little symbol. It isn’t just a charm on a necklace.
It’s an instrument of humiliation… and death.
Really? Are you sure this is the One you want to follow? Are you sure you want to carry a cross? Am I?
Are we willing to be humbled as He was? To make ourselves of no reputation? To count all this as loss, that we might gain Christ? To… die? To this world, to ourselves… or literally.
Is it worth it? Is it worth giving up everything to follow Him?
Oh… I hope and pray my answer is yes.
Not my answer here. Not my words. My life. The Answer.
For what good would it be, if I gained the whole world and kept my reputation… and yet… lost my soul? What good would it be to be known by men, but… not to know God or be known by Him? What good would it be to have man’s favor, and… not God’s? What good would it be… to get to heaven and say, well everyone said I was such a sweet, quiet girl–And yet… have missed out on the fullness of God wanted to do through me?
Am I worth holding on to? Is my reputation that important? Are my desires and ideas that much better than His?
No. No, not at all.
He… gave up everything. Everything. For God’s glory. For me.
How… HOW can I do less? I must not, I will not, I cannot.
Help me, God.