Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Strength of Mary

The other night Steve and I watched our first Christmas movie of the season - "The Nativity Story". I absolutely love this movie and every time we watch it something different strikes me about the story. It's kind of similar to what people say about scripture meaning something different and being fresh every time you read it - only, in this case it's a theatrical adaptation of scripture and not the scripture itself.

This year as we watched the film, there were a few things that hit chords with me. The biggest thing that has gotten into my brain and made me reflect quite heavily is the strength and bravery that Mary had throughout the entire story of Jesus' conception and birth.

But the angel said to her, “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. 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 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. 

Luke 1:26-38

Can you imagine how scared Mary was to be standing before this angel being told that she was going to carry the Son of God? Not only had she been tapped for potentially the greatest task ever to have been given by God of all time - she had not yet been married to Joseph for a full 12 months. At the time, brides and grooms were to be separated for a full year to allow the bride time to prepare for marriage; sexual relations were not allowed until the wedding night and were an integral part of the wedding celebration. To become pregnant before this time was up could subject her to stoning at the worst and criticism and ostracism at the least.

But Mary had faith in God. Regardless of how scared she very likely was, she continually stood in the face of her critics knowing that God had her back. This is the type of faith that we should strive to have - total, complete trust that God does indeed have a will for each of us and that he wants us to have a hope and future. (Hello... Jeremiah 29:11 anyone? I love that verse...)

Mary's strength and courage not only gave her the ability to stand in the face of family and villagers who surely looked down upon her, but it gave her what she needed for the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the time of the census. I've not been pregnant yet, BUT - I have lots of friends and family who have been. It does not look comfortable at all and I've heard tell that things like long car rides and plane rides can be downright torturous for the woman with child. Now, for those of you who have been pregnant and seen the movie: Has your heart gone out to poor Mary who has set out on a several days journey propped up on the back of a donkey? Why did she do this when she could have stayed home with her family during the census? Being as it was still in the 12-month period, this was certainly an option for her.

If you've seen the movie, her reason is simple: "Joseph is my husband." Ladies - here is another area in which Mary is an inspiration for us. She is an Ephesians 5:22 woman (as my friend Jamie would say); these four simple words show a loving submission to her husband. It didn't matter that she was super preggo and could have stayed nice and comfortable with her own family - without even blinking, she hopped up on the donkey and hit the road with her husband. She trusted and had faith that he would take care of her on their journey AND that God would protect and provide for them; clearly she was right since he got her all the way to Bethlehem seemingly without incident. She was led by the father and the Father of her child and let them do so with full and complete trust and faith.

Now let's get to the part that really blows my mind as a woman. Again - I've not been pregnant, I've yet to have children, but I know lots of people who have. A phenomenon I've noticed among parents - especially new ones - is an immediate protection of their children. A lot of parents are hesitant to let others hold their babies or bring them out places where there might be dangers or let others even touch their new kiddos. I am sure that with my first child I will have one or more of these same things and further I think that this is TOTALLY normal.

Mary... well... if you've seen the movie, you've seen the interaction with her and the shepherd who has come to see the newborn king. As he leans in to see the baby, he hesitantly reaches his hand out to touch him - probably thinking that this woman was not going to let him (a nasty, dirty, lonely shepherd) touch her brand new baby. Is this how beautiful Mary reacts? Does she give him a rotten look and pull her baby in closer to her bosom?

Heck no! Mary recognizes that this child - this beautiful, amazing child - that she has been carrying around for the last 9 months is NOT HERS! It is God's child. It is the Son of Man. This child - this child is a gift for everyone. And (at least in the film) she tells the shepherd this: "He is for all mankind. Everyone has a gift." The look on the actor who portrayed the shepherd's face is absolutely beautiful; he does a fantastic job of portraying what I can only imagine all of the shepherds who arrived there that evening felt. Tears of joy, faces of awe, staring down at this strong, courageous woman and the baby who would grow to become our Messiah.

Man oh man.

Mary is an amazing picture of who we should try to be as women. It's like she took Proverbs 31 and made it hers... God saw this, and God knew Mary's heart was true to Him. I pray that I can grow to be more like Mary; to have the courage and fortitude to trust in God and His will regardless of the circumstances. Thank you, Mary, for your example.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed is your soul among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

1 comment:

KStar said...

Awesome post, Yellie! Mary is someone I've looked up to for a while now for many reasons, including what you've mentioned in this well-written entry. She is a wonderful role model, regardless of the stage in our life. Thank you for reminding us of the amazing role Mary plays this time of year.