The Greatest Gift (and Mary's Response!)
This Sunday in our worship gatherings we continue our Advent series The Greatest Gift, turning our attention to Mary's interaction with the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:
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.
Earlier in the chapter Luke reveals the good news of Elizabeth's surprising pregnancy, which initially came to her husband Zechariah, an elderly man serving as a priest in the Jerusalem temple. Many characteristics of Zechariah's life were honored in first century Judaism; his age, marital commitment, religious service, and geographical location were all praised. And yet, Zechariah disbelieves Gabriel's announcement - for which he was made unable to speak until his child's birth!
Contrast that with Mary, who is young, poor, unmarried, engages in no religious service, and lives in Nazareth (recall John 1.46: "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"). And yet, we read that she had "found favor with God."
As we saw in this week's study guide, this is not because of anything she had done, but was rather because "God had acted on her behalf." Quite different from Zechariah's doubt, she responds simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”
This is how the promised Messiah comes into the world!
As we give thanks for being "welcomed home" into the household of God and reflect on The Greatest Gift of Jesus this Christmas season, may we trust God for the future He has for us, responding not in doubt like Zechariah, but with faith like Mary!
If you haven't yet pledged to the work of God in our midst next year, it's not too late! Remember those four P's of giving:
Priority Giving: Is giving to God's Kingdom the top priority in your budget? As Jesus declared in Matthew 6.21, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Percentage Giving: What percentage of your revenue goes to God's Kingdom? Paul declares in 1st Corinthians 16.2, "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income..."
Progressive Giving: Are you progressively increasing your giving over the years? In 2nd Corinthians 9.6, Paul writes, "Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously."
Prompted Giving: Are you ready to spontaneously respond to the prompting of God's Spirit as unique opportunities arise? Luke writes in Acts 20.35b, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"
May the above passage from Luke 1 be a reminder to us: God doesn't only work through people like Zechariah - people with authority, influence, honor, and status. God also works through people like Mary - those who see how God has acted on their behalf and respond in faith, declaring "I am the Lord's servant. May your word to me be fulfilled."
Grace and Peace,