Today we are reading about a woman with a huge role in the story of God’s plan of salvation. Read Luke 1:26-38. (This week’s scriptures are right here.)
How did Mary react to this very startling experience?
In all the artistic portrayals I’ve seen of this event, Mary looks peaceful and calm—completely surrendered to God. But let’s examine her first reaction.
[Gabriel] came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. (Luke 1:28-29)
“Greatly troubled.” The Greek words in the original text say that she was “deeply agitated,” and “argued” or “wondered”, and the verb tense implies ongoing action. Mary was agitated for more than a brief moment. (See note below.) Mary had a normal human reaction to a very startling visitor. So how did she move from “greatly troubled” to “let it be to me according to your word”?
The angel told Mary several things that must have given her peace in the situation. First, the angel said that God was with her and God saw her as “favored.”
Secondly, the angel gave her the information that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant. I think the angel was reassuring her that she would have fellowship with a friend. As she pondered what this pregnancy would do to her reputation and questioned how this might affect her plans for marriage, God, through the angel, reminded her of Elizabeth. Because Mary set off so quickly to see her, I presume the two women already had a close relationship.
In addition to these two facts brought by the angel, Mary also knew own identity. She saw herself as the Lord’s servant. This humble attitude let her rest in God’s plan for her life.
Two days ago, we read about Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. Read Luke 1:39-55 to catch a glimpse of the prayer times this friendship fostered. Notice how much of Mary’s prayer focuses on her own blessings, and how much of it focuses on God himself.
Mary did not pour out this beautiful prayer of praise the moment she heard the news. She was “greatly troubled,” she surrendered to the plan, and she went to find fellowship with her trusted relative. Then, when Elizabeth welcomed her, she bubbled over with joy and praise.
My favorite aspect of Mary’s character is that she knew what to treasure.
Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)
I think my concept of Mary’s personality is based on this one verse, and maybe I am exaggerating its description of her. Mary’s prayer of praise was very reminiscent of Old Testament passages (in Psalms and in the prayer of Samuel’s mother Hannah). She must have formed a habit early in her life of dwelling on the scriptures she heard. And now that amazing things were happening in her life, she pondered those as well.
Today we are going to begin a practice of treasuring scripture. We’ll keep this up throughout the Advent Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas. It’s easy. Begin with prayer, asking the Lord to show you something to treasure—something that speaks to you or strengthens you or something you can use as you pray. Read the scripture and write your treasure down. It might be a whole verse or just a phrase.
Read Psalm 89:1-18.
Read Luke 1:46-55.
Now put your treasure into a prayer. Maybe it is a response to God. Perhaps you begin, “Thank you, Lord, that…” and you insert the words of scripture. Maybe it is a request, “Oh Lord, please…” Or perhaps it is a goal. “Lord, please make this true in my life.” Or maybe in this Thanksgiving season, you want to pray as Mary did, looking back at things in your nation’s history or your own family history and thanking God for his guidance and power.
Here are the verses I chose to treasure today:
Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship,
for they will walk in the light of your presence, Lord.
They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation.
They exult in your righteousness. (Psalm 89:15-16 NLT)
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. (Luke 1:46-47)
Lord, at this time of year,
sometimes I am distracted by how many times I drive to church
and I forget why I drive to church.
I ask for a new joy in worship today, Lord,
and an awareness of your nearness.
Note: The information about the phrase “greatly troubled” is from an Advent devotional by Paula Gooder, The Meaning is in the Waiting.
Photo copyright Amy Mayfield.