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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Have a "Mary" Christmas

By Scott Harrup
Dec. 22, 2013

With the exception of Eve, perhaps no other woman is as recognized in history. Billions of people, including many outside the Christian faith, can name Mary as the mother of Jesus.

Some traditions have accorded Mary a separate level of human experience, free of sin and even beyond the reach of death. That mistaken approach may have an unspoken influence on how the rest of the Christian world treats her. That Mary was a virgin who miraculously gave birth to the Son of God is foundational to Christian belief. That she needed a Savior just as much as any member of our fallen race may come as a surprise.

Despite her unique role in human history, Mary walked through life facing temptation and pain and deep questions like anyone else. In reality, that’s a wonderful component of the gospel’s “good news.” Being just like the rest of us, Mary offers life experiences and lessons in faith accessible to all of us.

As Christmas draws us into final reflection on the year’s events, and as we consider where our lives are headed in the years to come, we can access Mary’s biblical biography for helpful counsel and timely encouragement.

The little girl who could

Unlike the stalwart mature image afforded Mary in some religious art, she was perhaps as young as 12 or 13 when betrothed to Joseph. A mere wisp of a girl when visited by the angel Gabriel. An unsophisticated village youth with no exposure to the world at large when told she would give birth to the world’s Savior.

In response, Mary offered a simple profession of faith in God’s ability to do through her whatever He promised.

“I am the Lord’s servant,” she said to Gabriel. “May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38, NLT).

There, in a nutshell, is a glorious life theme for each of us. When we are assured of our right relationship to God, when we live in obedient service to Him and His kingdom, we can rest assured His good plans for our lives will come to fruition.

We may come from humble backgrounds. We may believe our talents are few. We might write off our level of influence as insignificant. But when any of us takes hold of our Creator and embraces His design for our lives, He brings about the miraculous.

The power of praise

Take an inventory of your questions, challenges and painful circumstances. What comes to mind as your front-line source of strength in dealing with issues as yet unresolved? Have you considered praise?

Mary was a pregnant unwed teenager in a culture that offered little to no understanding. She found a refuge with relatives Elizabeth and Zechariah, but when she arrived at their home she probably wondered what kind of reception she would face from a priest and his wife, members of the religious and social establishment.

The Holy Spirit gave supernatural insight to Elizabeth, herself miraculously pregnant in her old age with John the Baptist.

“God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (Luke 1:42-45).

Mary’s response? “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (vv. 46,47). Mary’s inspired praise, known as the “magnificat,” continues through verse 55 and describes God’s faithfulness through the centuries and His bountiful love and mercy.

Still near the embarkation of her journey of obedience, Mary voiced her faith in God and His ability to bring about the good results He promised. When our lives appear to stutter through false starts, when our God-given dreams are on indefinite hold, when the answers to our prayers hover just out of reach, we can find courage and strength, comfort and assurance, when we give praise to God.

A heart of resolve

Just when we believe life is gaining favorable momentum, an unexpected and apparently unyielding crisis materializes. Stopped dead in our tracks, we wait to see what God will do next, how He will reveal the purpose in this puzzle.

Mary’s exuberant praise filled the narrative of her visit to Elizabeth, but she is silent in Luke’s narrative of the birth of Jesus. Did Mary struggle to see God’s hand when she and Joseph were forced to travel at the very end of her pregnancy? Did she feel with apprehension the impending pain of birth as they fruitlessly sought accommodations for the night? Did she question the contrast between Bethlehem’s primitive nursery and the eternal Son of God born and placed in its manger?

A young girl carried the weight of her maternal mission in the midst of chaos. Is it any wonder, when shepherds appeared with news of angelic hosts and messianic proclamation, she did not at once shout forth another enthusiastic proclamation of praise? Instead, “Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Luke 2:19).

“ ... And thought about them often.” That was Mary’s secret. It is a strategy for victory that works as well today in the midst of our challenges, at those moments when a roadblock in life slows our plans and progress to a near standstill. As we hold on to God’s promises and think about them often, He continues to work behind the scenes. No obstacle, no heartache, can ever still His divine hand.

Have you recently endured the loss of a loved one, the end of a marriage, a disheartening diagnosis, a severance from your job? Is your deepest fear threatening to become a reality? Put yourself in the slim sandals of an unassuming maiden. Walk her faith journey and take hold of the promises of God just as firmly as she did.

Mary carried Jesus in her womb for nine months. She stands unique in all of human history because of that experience. But she was also numbered with the early Christians who discovered the Savior’s very real promise: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” This Christmas, Jesus makes that same offer to you.

Have a “Mary” Christmas.

SCOTT HARRUP is managing editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.


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