Written by Judy Kenagy
Nativity scenes pop up on lawns and fireplace mantels as Christmas approaches. The lights are primarily focused on the baby Jesus laying on straw in the rough-hewn manger, as it should be. But let us reflect on the figure of Mary, the young virgin—Jesus’ earthly mother. We will explore two bookend passages in her life and consider what we can learn from this Galilean teenager.
Take away the halo and the unbiblical tenet about her birth by an immaculate conception. Mary certainly had a path different than any other woman in history. However, just for a moment, take away this mother’s unique calling in order to see the commonality that Mary has with all women, even you. Scripture reveals a couple of ways that we can bind our hearts with hers.
Heart to Heart
The first indication that Mary was similar to us is that she needed someone to talk to. In His wisdom, God knew this. Not just anyone would do. She needed to talk to someone who understood what she was going through—a miraculous birth. In her secret moments pondering her circumstances, Mary remembered the angel’s revelation that her older cousin, Elizabeth was also to experience a miraculous birth. The 80-mile journey, from Mary’s home in Nazareth to the Judean hills was made “in haste” but it would be well worth the time and travel.
Mary greeted her cousin. Elizabeth did not need to hear a single word more from Mary’s lips. Elizabeth felt it in her own womb, was filled with the Holy Spirit and responded with certainty that she was being visited by the mother of her LORD.
For he [John] will be great in the sight of the Lord…He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. Luke 1:15 (NKJV)
Elizabeth recognized this feeling in her womb as a fulfillment of Gabriel’s message to her husband, Zacharias. The angel prophesied the birth of Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:17b NKJV)
Wouldn’t you like to know more about the conversation between these two ladies? A young virgin and a mature woman past child-bearing years—both experiencing miracle births. Like Ruth and Naomi before them, these two ladies needed one another, just like we need each other today (Titus 2:3-5, 1 Peter 5:5, Eph 4:15-16).
Mary’s response to Elizabeth is known as the Magnificat or Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). The emotions of her heart tumble out as Elizabeth confirms the angel’s message. Assured that it wasn’t a dream or a wish, Mary knows full well what will come to be and cannot help but respond in adoration and praise.
And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. Luke 1:46-47 (NKJV)
A Heart of Anticipation
Let us fast forward to post-resurrection days. We do not know how much of Jesus’ public ministry Mary was present for. Fittingly, she was present at the cross. We do not know if Mary was present for the ascension of Jesus into the heavens. Probably not, for the angel addresses those present as “men [Gk. andres] of Galilee.” But we do find her in the upper room with the disciples and Jesus’ brothers.
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Acts 1:14 (NKJV)
We often assume that those gathered in the upper room were hiding out, afraid to go out into the highways and byways since they were known associates of “the Man” who was recently crucified on a Roman cross.
In his biography of Mary, Victor Buksbazen paints a different picture of how those in the upper room viewed the crucified BUT risen Savior:
“From now on Jesus would be their exalted Lord, who sits on the right hand of God and who is to come again to establish His glorious kingdom…. All of these people in the upper room were drawn by the mysterious and inexorable power of their risen Lord and by a compelling need for mutual fellowship in prayer and love.” (They Called Her Miriam by Victor Buksbazen, 2017, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, p.152)
Jesus’ brothers, who now had become believers, and Mary were there with the disciples. As suggested in the quote above, looking forward to the return of Jesus was a keenly felt personal matter by His disciples and family. Today, as mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends, we all have suffered the loss of relationships due to death, incarceration, poor choices or a host of other reasons, and yet we look forward to reunion.
With this final reference in Acts 1:14 Mary disappears from the pages of Scripture while the legacy of her Son floods the New Testament with proclamations, signs, commands and promises. In this, we can also imitate the mother of Christ. May we all strive to fade away, while pointing others to the One who can promise:
“I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
John 6:35 (NKJV)
Having observed Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth and the disciples, our hearts can join the desire of Mary’s heart to see Jesus face to face. As she celebrated His first coming, and looked forward to His second, we too can celebrate His birth, and His soon return (Titus 2:13. 2 Tim 4:8).
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