And the angel said to her in reply, "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. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.
When most people describe Mary they call her ‘meek’ and ‘mild’. You picture this gentle woman with long flowing hair who never raises her voice. Always looking down at her feet, she is ready to serve at the snap of a finger. But Scripture does not portray Mary this way. Mary is bold, courageous, strong. She is never stagnant – always on the move – a donkey ride to Bethlehem, a refugee fleeing to Egypt, a trip to Jerusalem. Demanding at times, she tells Jesus how it’s going to be and expects him to get with the program (John 2).
I was never described as ‘sweet’ growing up. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t, it was just way down on the list underneath ‘natural-born leader’, ‘spunky, and ‘opinionated’. I always struggled personally with girls who were perfectly sweet. I longed to be meek and mild, but I felt like God had made me too passionate about injustice and too opinionated about inefficiencies. Why did I get the characteristics no teachers ever seemed to love? And then I looked to Mary.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in god my savior. For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Mary’s song says it all. This woman is courageous. She is fierce. She is passionate about justice and equality. She’s a forward thinker, a dreamer, a preacher. And none of those characteristics get in the way of her serving God. In fact, He chooses her, knowing that those personality traits are exactly what will be needed to walk the path ahead. And then I begin to wonder if maybe God is using my unique personality and passion to bring about His Kingdom too… And what if He’s using yours, too?
If only we will say yes. “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to be according to your word.” What if we made this our mantra this upcoming Christmas season? What if every time we felt God’s gentle nudge we responded with, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord.” What if we started saying “Yes” to God’s call? What if we allowed God to use our unique characteristics for His glory?
This week I plan to repeat “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord,” every time I am tempted to complain or give up, every time I feel the nudge of God, the Spirit moving in my soul, every time I know I need to love beyond the limits in my imagination.
May we follow the example of a courageous woman this week. And may we be reminded as we move forward in courage that Emmanuel, God with us, will never leave us nor forsake us. He chose to take on flesh to show us His love. And while our mangers show Him dwelling in a stable, we know He already dwells in our hearts. Merry Christmas.