This Christmas, I thought that we would revisit in more detail some the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth that we have looked at in our Luke series. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story, the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Today, we reflect on how Mary’s response reveals that true worship is with words, but must also involve our whole-life dedication to God.
You can listen to this devotional at:
1. Questioning as the initial response
‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called 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 unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’ (Luke 1:34-37)
Like Zechariah earlier in the story, Mary questions the promise of God through The Angel Gabriel. However, Gabriel’s very different response to Mary makes it clear that, unlike Zechariah, her questioning is not from unbelief but her, “how can this be?” is an understandable question about how this could happen since she is a virgin; this is a question around practicalities. Mary, I believe, assumes that, as in God’s dealings in the past, that He would choose and work with a child born in the natural way. However, Gabriel reveals that Jesus will be conceived through the ‘Holy Spirit’ and the ‘power of the Most High.’ As a result of this supernatural conception, Jesus will be ‘the Son of God.’
This narrative teaches us about the miracle of The virgin birth. As such, Jesus is both God and man. Not half God and half man. Not God and man mixed together. The doctrine of the ‘Hyperstatic Union’ means that Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time - both natures being fully present and preserved. The ‘incarnation’ - the essence of the Christmas story - is God taking on flesh whilst remaining fully God. He was fully man (and fully God) and as such He experienced our temptations and suffering. And, ultimately, as a man, He died for mankind as our substitute.
2. Mary’s response of worship (1:38)
Mary responds with worship in words and whole-life dedication.
‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.’ (Luke 1:38)
Mary responds with worship. She may not understand how she will give birth to such a miraculous child, but she accepts it. Later we will look at her song of worship in verses 46-55, but here we see a short but rich response. She confesses that God is “the Lord” - He is God. She confesses, “I am the Lord’s servant”- Worship is about whole-life dedication. She expresses her submission and trust in the promises of God as she prays, “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary’s worship is holistic and full of truth. It is ’Spirit and truth’ worship as it’s inspired by the Spirit, it involves her spirit and is full of truth.
Mary’s response reveals that true worship is with words, but must also involves our whole-life dedication to God. Like Elizabeth, Mary makes the journey that we all have to go on all the time: God speaks in His word, we have questions or doubts; but we (ideally) eventually choose to trust God over the challenges as we worship, believe and obey. Can you say, with Mary, ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Do we believe, treasure and ponder God’s Word? Do we receive its ethical teaching? Do we receive what it says about God? Do we receive its promises and commands? Let’s pray:
“Lord Jesus, I praise you as God Almighty and as one who became a man in order to die to save me. These things are unfathomable but, like Mary, I give my heart, mind and life to you as your servant. Amen.”
COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY
It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.
Very importantly, let’s be praying and inviting to our carol service on 10th December.
How has God been speaking to you from His Word this week and how has this helped you?
3. Worship together
Let’s begin our time together by lifting our eyes and hearts to worship our great God. Perhaps you have readings and songs that you would like to use together. Let’s be open to the gifts that the Spirit wants to give in order to encourage one another.
4. Study and pray together
This Christmas, we will revisit in more detail some the teaching surrounding Jesus’ birth that we have looked at in our Luke series. I’ve entitled this teaching series, ‘Mary Treasured up These Things’ (from Luke 2:19) because my hope and prayer is that, like Mary, we will treasure the story the truths and the God of the Christmas story.
Please read Luke 2:1-19
What are the sorts of good and bad things that we can treasure and ponder at Christmas rather than Christ?
What are the various things that Mary may have been treasuring and pondering?
To 'treasure' (syntēréō) means to preserve, to protect, defend, treasure, preserve in memory. What truths about Jesus are taught in Luke Chapter 1:32-33, for example, that we are to treasure?
To 'Ponder' (symbállō) means to encounter, meet with - to reflect in a way that encounters the God of truth. How could you make time to ponder the truths of the Christmas story this year?
SIV - Why will treasuring and pondering truth make you effective as a witness?
SIV - Who do you plan to invite to the carol service?
SIV - Do we have any stories of how we have ‘Served, Invested, and inVited’ this week?
SIV - Lets now pray together that, this week, we will have opportunities to SIV.