“I am the Lord’s Servant” – Mary, ever obedient, ever faithful
For the last couple of days we have been focussing on those who God has transformed in their later years. Today we turn our attention to a young girl, quietly living her life in a small town in 1st Century Judea – Mary. We don’t know that much about Mary’s early life. We know her parents were Anne and Joachim and we know she was part of a large extended family as was common at that time, one of her older cousins being Elizabeth, whose life God also transformed through the gift of her long awaited son, John. We know Mary was very young, probably in her mid teens, and was betrothed to a local carpenter, Joseph. Now that might seem strange to us but back then, that was a very normal situation, and Mary, being an obedient daughter, would have accepted the choice of Joseph as her future husband without question.
It was Mary’s obedience and her faith in God that led her to be chosen to bear His Son, Jesus.
Mary has absolutely no doubt of the greatness of God and all that He has done throughout the ages. Brought up in a faithful Jewish household she has been taught since infancy of the way in which God has continued to hold His people close. She knows just how much He loves His people and how He constantly shows them mercy. She also knows of His strength and power in dealing with those who seek glory for themselves rather than the Kingdom.
In Luke Chapter 1, we read of how Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, who foretold the part she was to play in the incarnation. Despite her understandable trepidation, Mary accepted the radical transformation of her life that this would bring – “may it be to me as you have said” she says, putting aside any fears or doubts she may have harboured in her heart.
And then we get to who I think is one of the most beautiful passages of scripture in the whole Bible – Mary’s song or as it is sometimes known The Magnificat.
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”
In this verse and those that follow Mary expresses her sheer joy at the transformation that God has brought about to her life. She sings prophetically of the transformation to the world that is to come.
What is so moving about Mary’s song is her absolute trust and belief in all she sings about. That a young woman who has just been told that she has been chosen by God to fulfil His most vital mission to bring His people back to a close and faithful relationship with Him after years of apparent neglect should be so certain and steadfast in her acceptance and faith is truly inspiring.
I have a great regard for Mary. In some Christian traditions Mary is venerated far more than perhaps we do as Anglicans and some might criticise this as a distraction from glorifying God. But Mary is so key to the Christian faith that I believe that she should be given a place of honour in our worship – without Mary there can be no Saviour’s birth. Without Mary’s willingness to accept God’s mission the whole Gospel story may have been different.
Mary is the supreme disciple, she rises to the challenge that God has set her and she does so with both courage and determination. She knows that this is no easy path yet she retains her faith and her joy despite the adversities that will mark her life from this point onwards.
Mary knew God and loved him just as we do and she like us was known by God and loved by him too. Mary was called by grace to be the vessel through which Christ the light of the world would be born and we are called by grace to witness the truth that in Christ all things are made new.
Mary’s story is yet another example of the radical transformation that God brings to another ordinary, unassuming person…..no different from any of us, so who knows what transformation He has in store for was of us as well…..