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.
‘Let it be to me according to Your word’ Graham Kendrick put verse 38 into a great song back in the 1980’s. I remember hiring Sutton Theatre when we were in London to put on a Christmas production. Plenty of people came along and this song spoke powerfully to many people who would not at the time have been Christians. Every year I sing it to myself when I read this passage and every year it brings a fresh challenge and acts as a magnet back to that place of being content.
I have to be honest. I don’t find it difficult to be content. I’ve been reflecting on Psalm 16:6 and frequently say, along with the Psalmist, ‘the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places’. Maybe Mary had been thinking that, but what really challenges me is when she says it … immediately after being dropped the bombshell, which will mean turbulence will become an almost guaranteed feature of the rest of her life. Outside turbulence that is, all around her. On the inside Mary sets the direction of her heart on being content, whatever the circumstances swirling around her. But that’s’ not the end of the story … we’ve all done that, by which I mean say what we intend. Mary, however, follows it through with the rest of her life. So how do we practice contentment? We do what Mary did.
Don’t disbelieve in the darkness what you’ve seen in the light. If contentment is an issue of the heart, don’t let go when your circumstances change. Keep reminding yourself: God our Father ‘has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ’. Meditate on this verse daily between now and Christmas day.
Character is seen in what it does. Contentment is also an issue of the will. Advent coincides with the biggest wave of materialism of the year, so it’s the ideal opportunity to practice setting our face into the wind. Ask yourself how this might impact how much you spend this Christmas
Contentment is also an issue of outward practice. ‘I am the Lord’s servant’ says Mary. It may be an issue of the heart, but our inner ‘yes’ to God needs to be reflected in a consistent life. Yes to God is not revealed in actions, which shout ‘no’. If Advent is about preparing our heart for the coming of Christ, which it is, then we must be content with whatever gifts we receive. Dare to examine your heart – what is your attitude going to be towards what you receive, or don’t!
Dear Lord, I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.
Help me, Lord, to live today in the light of your word. Help me to welcome every opportunity to serve you this day, to look for your image in every person I meet and to be content with whatever response to you I receive.