Our Christmas sermon was on a song written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene called “Mary did you know?” Mark apparently wrote it as a poem for his church one Christmas and Buddy put it to music several years later. It’s one of Pastor’s favorite songs.
Pastor pondered the questions in that song and asked a few more taking his references from Luke 1:26-37
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month, 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 favored! 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 favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob 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 upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[c] 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 barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Two things jumped out for pastor and he wanted to relay them to us. Did Mary really know what it meant to be “highly favored?” and did she really believe that “Nothing is impossible with God?”
When we think of what it means to be “Highly Favored” we think of wealth, health and prosperity, don’t we. Do we think of her reality though? Pastor pointed out some things I’d never thought of.
1. She was a young child herself suddenly with child – and not her fiance’s how would she explain that?
2. Her fiance was planning to quietly divorce her.
3. The leaders of her church and community had authority to stone her to death if they chose.
4. An angel took care of Joseph – this much we know.
5. She traveled for days to Bethlehem and gave birth in a stable
6. They had to flee for their lives soon after
There’s also the rest – she watched her son die. And other things.
Highly favored – at least for Mary doesn’t sound good when compared to our own limited perceptions. She was favored – she gave birth to the Messiah – to Christ. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and conceived the Christ Child. With Favor came great responsibility. And yet nothing is impossible with God. She did learn that. But favor does not mean cushie life. Does it?
I thought that was an interesting message for Christmas. I had someone make that statement about me once – calling me “favored of God.” – I’m not so sure I like that now.
I have some new readers – so let me explain that a little bit. I don’t typically make it a habit to talk about myself as much as I have been lately. God is doing a work that I do not know how to explain fully. Part of my personal testimony includes being born in a home for unwed mothers, growing up in all kinds of disfunction and such, being kicked out of church as a child because of my parent’s divorce, being raised by my mom who made less than 10K a year, and other things.
Knowing that I get to facilitate Bible studies now? Blows my mind. Seriously. It surprizes others too who knew me when. (Trust me) I am the woman who busted the binding on my Bible during my very first Precepts (Kay Arthur) class taught by my pastor’s wife 13 years ago and here I am – certified to teach it if I want, facilitating Beth Moore Studies as well as others, teaching Sunday School for women, and serving as a missionary in my own denomination (Ablaze).
I’m not doing any of those things because I’m so great and so smart – trust me. I am a scardy cat coward who cannot believe God actually wants to use me most days. I used to do them to seek his favor – but I’ve learned that Christ already did that for me. I do those things today, out of obediance to God. This path I’m on? Was not my choosing at first.
I’m learning to follow his voice even when it doesn’t make sense. I take the classes today that he tells me to. God has had a lot to teach me in the last few years. Including what I will and will not do as a teacher. (see older posts on Matthew 23).
I’ve argued with him a lot. I know what His word says about teachers, and leaders and it scares me. That’s a lot of responsiblity – I don’t want to let him down. And true to form when I tell him that – I’m reminded that “nothing is impossible with God” and that HE won’t let me down.
So for 2008 – it’s a year of getting over myself yet again – and focusing on him.
I don’t have the right – to write this blog – to teach – to lead – to speak – I am a fellow traveler who gets to share and journey with others.
What a kick that is.
God worked miracles in my life this year as far as courage goes. I took some huge risks following God. Major steps of courage. I chaired a community egg hunt at our mission start – which was a total flop by the way, I planned for 750 and 2,000 showed up, over ran us and beat eachother up over candy filled eggs. I turbo hosted a comedy concert for Chonda Pierce with several other helpers and it sold out. I’ve hostessed some other Christian events as a runner and met some speakers I get to learn from now. I went to a Speak Up class in Mich taught by Carol Kent (by myself mind you with no security blanket come with me friends.), I joined a comedy association and actually speak with some of the comics so that I can learn, I went for and got my Precept teachers certification. I reached out to people in the faith who are farther along than I am and asked them questions – I asked for and found mentors, I’ve gathered materials, I’ve laid myself down as a student whenever possible.
Why am I sharing these things with you? Because 15 years ago I shook in church. 15 years ago, I couldn’t put two words together in front of a crowd. A lot has changed in 15 years.
God and I have come a long way from the days where I was more interested in cloning myself into those I admired, rather than being me. The old me wound up setting my dress on fire as a result. You’d think I would have learned from that, but.. it took a few more years and a few big failures, before that message really sunk in. I don’t want to be the next Kay Arthur or Ken Davis, Beth Moore, or Chonda Pierce nor do I even want to be my with me mentors like Lisa Lessing, Joy Moss, Zeal Beal and Velma Campbell – real life women who have been kind enough to teach me and share with me along the way and be my friend – I just want to learn from them. All of them.
I went three years without a teacher – or mentor of any kind. God brought me to himself, loved on me, and revealed to me his word. I was stripped of all would be idols and learned to desire him alone. Then and only then did he bring new people into my life.
I’ve been writing about some of them because these are the people I get to learn from right now. – with intention and with blessing and with humilty and thankfulness.
I want to honor God with my life like they do theirs, what ever that means. I want to be open to His call on my life – and not my limited vision as I have in the past.
I haven’t taken the time to fast and pray yet for the new year, but I will. I have no clue where he wants me – or what he wants me to do – except the next right thing directly in front of me. Somehow, I know that he will get me where he wants me to be.
I am the Lord’s servant. May it be with me, as he says.
Blessings to you my friends, both old and new. And thank you for walking this path with me. May the Lord our God bless and keep you this new year.