Luke 1:13 (The Voice Translation)
Messenger: Zacharias, your prayers have been heard. Your wife is going to have a son, and you will name him John. He will bring you great joy and happiness – and many will share your joy at John’s birth.
Luke 1:25 (TVT)
Elizabeth: I have lived with the disgrace of being barren for all these years. Now God has looked on me with favor. When I go out in public with my baby, I will not be disgraced any longer.
Luke 1:30-45 (TVT)
Messenger: Mary, don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. 31 Listen, you are going to become pregnant. You will have a son, and you must name Him “Savior,” or Jesus. Jesus will become the greatest among men. He will be known as the Son of the Highest God. God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David, and He will reign over the covenant family of Jacob forever.
Mary: But I have never been with a man. How can this be possible?
Messenger: The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also the Son of God. It sounds impossible, but listen – you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet, she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God.
Mary (deciding in her heart): Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me. And the heavenly messenger was gone. Mary immediately got up and hurried to the hill country, in the province of Judah, where her cousins Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, who felt her baby leap in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Elizabeth (shouting): You are blessed, Mary, blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed! And blessed I am as well, that the mother of my Lord has come to me! As soon as I heard your voice greet me, my baby leaped for joy within me. How fortunate you are, Mary, for you believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.
As I read the Christmas story this year, I was struck with fresh awareness of the personal costs of embracing God’s favor. Elizabeth and Zacharias had endured years of unmet desire to have a baby. Elizabeth wore an aura of public disgrace and shame because God had not blessed them with a baby of their own. God’s messenger revealed to Mary that Elizabeth was “now far too old” to naturally bear a child. Elizabeth and Zacharias must have thought the time had passed and their deepest longing would never be met.
But God’s purposes and timing was perfect. The pregnancy and birth of Elizabeth and Zacharias’ son would be part of God’s confirmation to Mary that He was indeed at work in all of their lives to do miraculous things and to bring about the arrival of the Savior.
For Elizabeth, God had looked on her with favor. When she went out in public with her baby, she would no longer be disgraced.
God’s messenger told Mary that she, too, was favored and blessed by God. But for Mary accepting the motherhood of Jesus and trusting God at work in her life would mean embracing public disgrace and shame.
Can you imagine the whispers, the hushed conversations, the doubtful looks from those who had once been Mary’s friends and neighbors? Who would believe her even if she told them that her son, Jesus, was born of the Holy Spirit, a unique part of God’s plan to save us all? Even her loving, honorable husband-to-be, Joseph, had to be encouraged in a dream by a messenger of God to take Mary as his wife and to trust that she had been faithful to him.
Mary embraced God’s plan. She trusted Him. She couldn’t begin to know all of the personal costs, but she decided in her heart as God’s humble servant, “As you have said, let it be done to me.”
When God’s favor intervenes and His blessings appear to be burdens, He always has a special purpose. I don’t always understand or appreciate His favor. That is the time when I most need to decide in my heart to trust Him, to put the unanswered questions behind me, to embrace Him, His favor, and His purposes whatever the cost.
Editor’s Comment (Don): Trusting God in the midst of my questions… a significant lesson drawn from the Christmas Revolution!