Friday, December 9, 2011

EMBRACING THE UNEXPECTED

"In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin's name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her: 'Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, beautiful inside and out! God be with you.' She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, 'Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus. He will be great, be called Son of the Highest. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; he will rule Jacob's house forever ~ no end, and ever, to his kingdom.' Mary said to the angel, 'But how? I've never slept with a man.' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God. And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months' pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.' And Mary said, 'Yes, I see it all now: I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve. Let it be just as you say.' Then the angel left her."
~Luke 1: 26-38, The Message

Is there anything as exciting as a wedding on the horizon? Yes, there's an element of stress over the big event. But for the most part, it is a season of joy and anticipation for what the future holds. This is our family's experience as we begin to prepare for our only daughter's big day.

There was another bride-to-be, a young teenage girl named Mary. She was betrothed to Joseph, who from all appearances, was an honorable man. I don't know much about the customs back then, but I am quite sure there was the same gamut of emotions that the bride and groom experience today. Of course, the culture was very different in Mary and Joseph's day. For one thing, it was utterly unacceptable for a couple to be intimate before marriage.

I can imagine that Mary was like most brides, eagerly awaiting her wedding day and the new life that would unfold as Joseph's wife. But life as we know it rarely goes in perfect accordance with the plans we make. In fact, there is usually at least a hiccup or two along the way because we can't see into the future, and we cannot control every outcome.

Mary's surprise was certainly unequaled to any previous life experience when she was visited by Gabriel, an angel. How long did it take for it to register that the one speaking to her was a heavenly messenger, sent straight from the throne of God? Although she was "thoroughly shaken", she listened to the words spoken by Gabriel. He told her that she would give birth to a son, and would name him Jesus. Mary seemed to grasp the fact that this event would take place before her marriage to Joseph, because she asked how it was even possible. She was a virgin, and she knew that pregnancy was a result of physical intimacy with a man.

Gabriel reassured her that this would be a miraculous conception. To help her embrace the impossible, he informed Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, barren and too old to conceive, was six months' pregnant. Hearing this news, Mary seemed to be convinced that Gabriel knew what he was talking about. She didn't hesitate to agree wholeheartedly to a very dramatic change in her life-plans.

I am awed by Mary's faith and willing spirit. Engaged to be married, she was willing to become pregnant, knowing the possible fallout. She could have lost everything ~ Joseph, her family, even her life. But somehow she knew that God was at the heart of the events that were about to unfold. And she chose faith over fear.

I love this! It is so easy for me to pull back ~ to say no ~ to kick and scream when my world gets turned upside down. I can get swallowed up by fear...doubt...depression. But this story gives me an amazing illustration of beauty from ashes. I have seen it in my own life time after time. If I just hang in there and hold on tightly to my faith, something miraculous rises out of the ashes. Death gives way to new life. The thing I thought would be my demise ends up producing blessings beyond my wildest dreams. Mary's story reminds me how the unexpected...the beautiful...the miraculous can blossom out of the most perilous, dark, and confusing circumstances. This is the miracle of Christmas.

"Our God is the God of the unexpected. Few things could be more unexpected than the King of heaven being born in a stable."
~Bill Crowder           

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