By Sandra Ostapowich
Everyone focuses on Mary as being the mother of our Lord, especially at Christmas time, and for good reason! God thought so much of women, so much of motherhood that He created us with the ability to bear children. He gave His Son a mother who would carry Him in her body, nurse Him at her breasts, change his dirty diapers, and protect and love Him as only a mother can. Pretty amazing!
Mary’s faith is what has always astounded me. If some strange guy appeared out of nowhere and started talking to me, telling me that I’d suddenly be pregnant, but not by any man–by the Holy Spirit; that my son would be the Son of God, and reign forever on the throne of David, “Amen, may it be to me as you have said,” would hardly be my response.
But Mary is utterly unflappable! No matter what comes her way, she takes it all in stride. If a doubt crosses her mind, if she’s ever worried or scared, she doesn’t text all her friends and vent all her fears to them. I doubt she’d even put it on her Facebook status.
Pregnant outside of marriage? No fun, but no problem either. The rumors about what kind of girl she was have been flying for a while now. They still continue today with some modern scholars. But God won’t have Joseph dump her or scandalize her any more than she already has been. He’s going to be good to her–especially in this. He’s going to do great things for her. He has to. Holy is His Name.
Just when she’s getting used to it all and getting ready for the big day, there’s a new twist. Joseph has to go to Bethlehem and Mary has to go with him even though she’s literally about ready to give birth. It’s a really long journey, even if Joseph finds a donkey for her to ride on, like in the Christmas card pictures. Either way, her doctor wouldn’t approve.
Of course, that’s when things really start to get crazy! Her water breaks while they’re in Bethlehem. And all the hotels are completely booked because everyone and their uncle is in town for Caesar’s census. The best Joseph can find for them is a stall in a barn. Seriously? But not even so much as a tweet from Mary to complain about her incompetent husband, the less than 5-star accommodations, or the pain of having to deal with it all during the throes of labor.
No doctor, no nurses, no latex gloves, no anti-bacterial soap, not even a reasonably clean bed to put the Baby in once He’s born. She has to lay Him in a manger. It’s a good thing she packed extra swaddling cloths! Just when she’s about to catch some rest after a really long, hard day, visitors show up. Dirty, smelly, low-class shepherds from the hills outside of Bethlehem. Come on, God! Can’t she even get a decent nap?
The shepherds tell Joseph and Mary about the miraculous visit from the angels and how they were told where to find the Baby. The whole heavenly host had shown up in the skies to announce the birth of God incarnate to the shepherds, continuing their praises of Him on earth just like they do without ceasing in heaven.
Wait a second. These filthy men get the big angelic show and Mary gets the stinky shepherds? That’s so not fair! “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” (St. Luke 2:19 ESV)
Mary just takes it all in. She treasures it all up–each precious moment. She doesn’t get negative. She doesn’t complain or whine. She doesn’t even get pouty. She’s not ungrateful or ungracious, for even a second. Why would she be? Mary actually believes what the angel told her.
She receives it all–that’s faith! She believes that she is one of God’s favorites! She knows without a doubt that everything that happens, no matter how unbelievable and unexpected, is a gift from her heavenly Father who loves her and only has good things for her. How could He not? He’s given this little Baby, cooing and gurgling in her arms, to save her from everything that could possibly harm her.
The thing about Mary is that it’s never really about Mary. Her faith is in Jesus, her receiving is from Jesus. Her salvation has been accomplished by Jesus. Yours, too. So be at peace. Trust that, in Christ, you are also one of God’s favorites and He has nothing but good for you. How could He not? He’s given you His Son.
Pause for just a brief moment as you think about Jesus and contemplate Mary. She is the epitome of femininity, but not simply because she gives birth to Christ and is His mother. She is a miraculous example of faith, of receiving, of trusting, of submitting. On her own she’s just as full of doubts as the rest of us, but in Christ she is quiet and full of peace. Mary is an example, not just for women, but for all of us who are the Bride of Christ.
Sandra Ostapowich is the Conference and Retreat Coordinator for Higher Things and served for nine years on the Higher Things Board of Directors. She lives with her son in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she is also studying for her PhD in Missiology at Concordia Theological Seminary.