“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you! But she was greatly troubled at the saying and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus…And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? Luke 1:26-31, 34
Mary is probably the most iconic person in the whole human race. No other person has as close a physical affinity to Jesus, fully man and fully God, than his mother, Mary. Spiritually, as well, the intimacy of motherhood draws her very close in a unique way to the Savior. As “theotokos, the mother of God, Mary’s humanity is not elevated beyond any other human being. She remains solely human; she does not partake of the nature of divinity which alone belongs to her Triune God. But she stands in a unique relationship to her Lord as His mother.
We do not have as complete or detailed a biography of Mary as we have of, say, Abraham, Moses, or David, or even New Testament Paul. However, we do have Scriptural glimpses into her life which tell us a lot about her. Mary was a very thoughtful person. We are told she pondered deeply the great things that impacted her unusual life. She was not professionally educated as the Apostle Paul, but her education, though informal, fully fit her for her calling as the Lord’s mother.
She was beyond her years in maturity, seen in her life response to Gabriel’s announcement and her handling of all the pressure and intrigue this remarkable announcement introduced into her life hereafter. Her knowledge of the Scriptures, seen in Mary’s Song, even though aided as we all are by the Holy Spirit, signifies a very devout young lady.
Though the cultural experts say Mary was a teenager, possibly even as young as 12 or 14, because young girls married at such an early age in the Palestine of that day, you cannot randomly cast Mary among the norm of marriageable maidens of her society. She was prepared and chosen by God, fitted with her character in maturity and thoughtfulness. She was not particularly pretty, nor was Joseph handsome, given the description of Jesus in Isaiah as a less than average looking or even unhandsome face. Maybe she was initially overlooked for marriage by the men of her generation. Perhaps Joseph did not pick a wife until he was much older than the marrying men of his time. He, for some reason such as older age, poor health, or accident, leaves this earthly scene before Jesus’ public ministry commences. And perhaps, when he did choose a wife, he chose someone who was not pretty but, nevertheless, of greater maturity, character, and devoutness than the typical maiden available.
I am not saying Mary was an old spinster when she married, for she had a full family with Joseph after Jesus, but I rather imagine she was in her late teens, even very early twenties, based on the maturity reflected in her response to the unusual events of her life. Her reaction to the shocking announcement of Gabriel, her knowledge of Scripture in her Song, and her seemingly mature character all suggest a greater period of formation than age 14 or even 16 allows in the normal course of such things. Mary may have had to care for her parents or help with her siblings from an early age, precluding earlier marriage; we actually know nothing about her family.
Mary was not among the average. You could say she was exceptional. She displayed this in her actions and words at the wedding in Cana at the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. When women were not accorded as much opportunity for education, Mary found time to acquaint herself with God’s Word, and she displayed a devout nature marked by a love for worship of her Father God.
Unusually, Jesus committed her care after His crucifixion to the Apostle John rather than to one of her other children, and she went in her old age, according to tradition, with him to Ephesus after the destruction of Jerusalem. We do not know all the reasons John was selected by Jesus, but it may be that John by his younger age, or the foreknowledge of the future lives of her other children, was the best to care for her. We do not even know to what age Mary lived, but it must have been very old for her to move with John to Ephesus. Her knowledge of Jesus’ life on earth surpassed that of any other except His Father; and her thought life and pondering of all she knew about Jesus and their combined life events was more rich and full than any you can imagine.
Mary is and should be a major part of Advent devotions and worship. Her example of pondering and meditation on the truly important things of life should inspire you as you celebrate this Advent season. Mary’s life really touches every part of Jesus’ ministry and, therefore, every season of the Church Year. Her words in response to the momentous announcement from God through Gabriel, which would transform her life and the life of the whole world, say exactly what should be the confession from your own lips: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.
“Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters? Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? This child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand? Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation? Mary, did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.
(from Mark Lowry’s song, “Mary Did You Know? 1998)
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