Luke 1: 26-38
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour 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. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
‘then the angel left her’… Terrific, isn’t it? An angel shows up and effectively blows your future out of the water. You’ve said you’re up for it. Not daring to think too much about what it might entail, but from somewhere deep within you respond. You know this is part of God’s plan and His preferred future will be embraced by it. If this were a soap opera then the angel leaving would be the closing scene. What happens next?
It must have felt like, one by one, everyone else was leaving Mary as well. How about you? Is there part of your life where you feel you’re alone, frightened, isolated? The BBC’s ‘The Nativity’ does the best job I’ve seen in capturing what could easily have seen Mary stuck in all three places.
Mary does not leave. Mary stays with the direction she settled upon in her heart when she said ‘I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me according to your word’. Mary is obedient. Yesterday we reflected a little on Joseph’s obedience … reluctant, begrudging, more than kind of my heart is not willing, but I’ll do it. Mary is very different, but please don’t mistake willingness for easiness.
So what do you look for, wherever God is calling to be obedient in a particular way?
Look for God. The angel may have left her physical presence, but God does not leave her. Look for peace. Joseph may have threatened to leave her, but the Holy Spirit stayed alongside. My own unfolding story of following Jesus is that I’ve known more of the peace of God in the darkest and most challenging times.
Look for the next step. You must take that one, just like Mary did. Mary did not leave what we might describe today as ‘an intentional walk of discipleship’, but Mary just saw it as the next step of obedience in the long walk.
The next step may not be a big one – it’s simply the next step. The next step may not appear to change anything – remember it was months of waiting for Jesus to be born, not 20 seconds to get into the next chapter. The next step is not necessarily one, which will bring everyone else around you, applauding you along the way and that sense of being alone with God, but isolated from everyone else, suddenly evaporating. However, it will be a step into God’s preferred future, for you and the world around you.
Mary’s obedience would have huge implications for her life, but it would also bring a massive impact on everyone around her. If you decide you will walk obediently, step by step, into God’s preferred future for your life, you will be taking another step to become more like the good news everyone needs. My conviction is you’ll be taking another step towards becoming the answer to the prayers of everyone you rub shoulders with. Who wouldn’t want a friend like Mary?
Same prayer, same practice, everyday …
Dear Lord, I choose to follow your way rather than my own. I want to be obedient to you in every area of my life. Help me to look to you rather than my circumstance to determine what I do today and the decisions I make. Give me courage to take one step of obedience and faith at a time. In Jesus name. Amen.