By Annette Griffin, Crosswalk.com
The final days before Christmas typically usher in a flurry of activity. Last-minute shopping, gift wrapping, and list checking can be stressful. But can you imagine the hustle and bustle that Mary and Joseph faced the week before the first Christmas? What must it have been like for Mary, the mother of Jesus, during her final countdown to the big day? What was it like to raise God incarnate?
Throughout history, many have tried to imagine the reality of Mary’s experience from a safe and holy distance. After all, Mary is the most famous mother of all time. But have we placed this amazing woman on such a pedestal that we’ve missed seeing the parallels between her calling and ours? Here are three things all Christians have in common with Jesus’s mother, Mary:
1. Every Christian ‘carries’ Jesus inside them.
When her elderly cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant, the angel Gabriel went to Nazareth to give Mary the good news that would forever change the trajectory of mankind.
“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.” (Luke 1:30-31)
Some scholars estimate Mary’s age to be around 15 or 16 years old when the angel visited her. Such a young girl. Such a high calling. But Mary had been taught about the coming Messiah from childhood, and God had prepared her heart to receive the divine mission with joy and grace. Although her human mind couldn’t fully comprehend the supernatural concept of an immaculate conception, by faith Mary willingly surrendered her body and her life to God’s sovereign plan.
When Mary told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant … May your word to me be fulfilled.” The Holy Spirit, through God’s power, overshadowed the virgin—and her body miraculously became the temporary dwelling place of Jesus—the Most High God.
Jesus still chooses to inhabit the weak human bodies of those who receive Him by faith (2 Corinthians 13:5, Romans 8:10, Galatians 2:20). When we surrender our lives to Christ, His Holy Spirit resides inside us—giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.
But unlike Mary’s divine pregnancy, those who believe in Jesus are inhabited by the resurrected Christ! His blood cleanses us from all unrighteousness and makes us clean and pure vessels for His use.
We hold this treasure in “jars of clay” to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. In other words, we carry around in our body the risen Jesus, so that His redeeming power can be revealed to the world through us (2 Corinthians 4:7-12, Romans 8:11).
2. All Christians are chosen, favored, and blessed through Christ.
When the angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary, He offered her a salutation that would forever become a part of the young woman’s identity.
“The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:28)
But instead of responding to this greeting with an air of prideful acknowledgment or even humble acceptance, scripture tells us that, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” Mary recognized something about herself that others have debated throughout the ages—she knew she possessed no inherent value that would merit God’s favor. God did not choose Mary to carry Jesus because she was highly favored. Mary was highly favored because God chose her to carry Jesus.
Soon after Mary became pregnant, she visited her cousin Elizabeth. By divine inspiration Elizabeth added another accolade to Mary’s title when she declared, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:48). Mary’s own praise-filled response affirmed her blessed state, and she praised God for the great things He had done and will continue to do from generation to generation—through Jesus (Luke 1:46-55).
Scripture tells us that all those who believe in Christ are chosen, favored, and blessed—just like Mary. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Ephesians 1:3, John 1:12-13, Ephesians 1:3-6).
But just like Mary did nothing to earn God’s favor or blessing, neither do we. All our own righteousness is as filthy rags. Since all the glory belongs to God we should never wear God’s blessing and favor as a personal badge of honor. Instead let us boldly proclaim as Mary did, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
3. All Christians are called to ‘take’ Jesus to the world.
When Jesus was about one month old Joseph and Mary, in accordance with the law, took their child to Jerusalem to consecrate Him to the Lord. There, they met a man named Simeon and a woman named Anna. Both these righteous and devout older people had been waiting their whole lives for the Messiah. And when they finally saw baby Jesus at the temple that day, they took him in their arms and rejoiced over Him (Luke 2:35).
This was the first of many times Mary would be required to take Jesus into the world that desperately needed him. Simeon and Anna greeted Christ with open arms and blessings, but Simeon warned that Jesus would not always receive a warm welcome. “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34).
When Jesus was a little older, Mary was frantic with worry when she discovered that Jesus was missing from their group while traveling. She and Joseph anxiously searched for Him. When they finally found the boy at the temple, and questioned about His disappearance, Jesus’s reply baffled them. “And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49 NKJV)
Jesus’s answer to Mary holds a profound application for Christians today. We need to allow Jesus to be about His Father’s business—through us (Luke 2:49).
Like Mary, Christians have the privilege and responsibility to present Christ to the world. We can’t hide and hoard His light within us, no matter how skeptical or scary our culture becomes. God’s people are called to take Jesus into the dark world so that the world, through Him, might be saved.
The Apostle Paul likened this calling to a woman who travails in labor. (Galatians 4:19) His travail over the Galatians resulted in the birth of many spiritual children. And Paul continued his labor with them so that Christ would be fully formed in each believer.
What Can We Learn from Mary?
We can learn many valuable lessons from the mother of our Savior. Her humility, obedience, and surrender offer a living picture of what a life in Christ should look like for every Christian. Mary said yes to God’s plan then trusted God to work out the details of that plan to the very end, even as she stood at the foot of the cross and watched her son suffer and die.
Although it is right and fitting to esteem Mary, the mother of Jesus, and see her as a role model, we need to be careful not to exalt her to a status equal with our Lord. In Luke chapter 11, as Jesus started to preach to a large crowd, a woman in it called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” But Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
This Christmas season may we remember and fully embrace the gift of Jesus—God with us—who has come not only into our world, but to make His home in our hearts (Ephesians 3:17).
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/ollirg
Annette Marie Griffin is an award-winning author and speaker who has managed and directed children’s and youth programs for more than 20 years. Her debut children’s book, What Is A Family? released through Familius Publishing in 2020. Annette has also written curriculum for character growth and development of elementary-age children and has developed parent training seminars to benefit the community. Her passion is to help wanderers find home. She and her husband have five children—three who have already flown the coop and two adopted teens still roosting at home—plus two adorable grands who add immeasurable joy and laughter to the whole flock.