There are so many elements to the Christmas story that are worth diving into to see iridescent meaning and application. One such element is the announcement of Jesus’ birth to Mary, His mother-to-be.
When Mary was visited by Gabriel and received word that she would carry and bear the Son of God, her response is probably not what many of us would have in a similar situation. Think about how quickly all of this happened. She was minding her own business, planning her wedding, enjoying life, when she was interrupted by a meeting that would change history.
With rapid-fire succession, the story unfolds with mind-bending twists and soul-stirring turns:
-An angel appears to her (not normal).
-He greets her as “favored one,” or “woman richly blessed.” How am I blessed? she thinks.
-As she mulls this over, she hears something about conceiving a baby. This is impossible; I have never been intimate with a man.
-Then the angel tells her what to name the baby. Wait, I don’t get to name my baby?
-His name will reflect the Person He is—the Son of God, the promised King who will reign forever.
-This is all going to happen by the Holy Spirit, for nothing is impossible with God.
That’s a lot of information for the angel to give at the first meeting, isn’t it? Why couldn’t they get to know each other a little before he dumped all of this on her plate? But there are no brakes on this conversation, and Mary’s fine with it.
What is Mary’s response? Well, it’s not to take a few days off to decide whether she’s going to be in on this endeavor. This is an announcement, not an offer. Her response is not to analyze everything to find out why this is happening and try to connect the dots and make sense of it all. It doesn’t make sense. Her response is not a knee-jerk rebellion in which she asserts her rights and freedoms as an individual. Instead, her response is a calm compliance. It’s a soft submission. It’s a yielding “yes.”
“Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
We can learn so much from those two small sentences. We have to understand our position in relation to God. We are his servants. That means we serve Him. That means our lives serve His purposes—purposes that are much bigger and more comprehensive than our small days here on this earth. We are a part of a much broader whole—one that maximizes the glory to God, one that transcends generational and geographical and denominational and racial and cultural lines, one that sacrifices self for the greater good of the gospel and one that casts off the temporal with a view toward the eternal.
When we see ourselves as creatures designed to serve our Creator, then whatever news an angel brings, whatever direction our Shepherd leads, or whatever comforts we’re called to leave, we will say compliantly, “let it be to me according to your word.” For we know that no matter how crazy it sounds and how much we may think we want out of it, the plan of God is purer, more joyous, more soul-satisfying, and more Christ-glorifying than the small dreams we see through our limited windows. Oh Lord, let it be to us according to Your word.
We are fully in the Christmas season! We have had several events already in our church family and look forward to more in the coming days. This is a wonderful time of year, and the gatherings, fellowships, ministry activities, and services are all worth anticipating. Many of us are busy cooking, practicing, preparing, traveling, and shopping in order to make the most of the events we think are important.
In the midst of all this, many of us are also faithful about making these things about Christ. We try to think about Him while we do these things, and we strive to point others to Him during this season—and these are good things. But if we’re not careful, we can reduce our relationship with Christ to a series of events attended. We can actually attend everything that the church puts on, and direct our hearts toward Christ during them, and still not intentionally seek Him.
Our relationship with Christ is not a series of connected dots in which we leap from one high point to the next, one event to the next, or even one Sunday to the next. We cannot gage our fellowship with Him by anything we do. Our relationship with Christ is a spiritual union with Him. It’s abiding in Him. It’s a walk with Him. It’s organic and free. It’s daily—even hourly.
The main thing that I want you to get this Christmas is that knowing Christ is the essence of your relationship with him. I am not speaking of the kind of knowledge that we have when we know a fact, but rather the kind of intuitive, relational knowledge we have when we know a person. That’s how our relationship with Christ operates.
This personal, relational knowledge is what Jesus meant when he told his followers (all of us who believe), “Believe [or trust] in God,believe also in Me,” (John 14:6). This is how he spoke of the Holy Spirit, “You know him because he abides with you and will be in you,” (John 14:17). This is why he said, “Abide in me, and I in you,” (John 15:4). This is why he prayed for his disciples “that they mayknow You [the Father],” (John 17:3). He is interested, not chiefly in our regular attendance of church events, but in our affection and attention in our everyday lives. He beckons us with a small, comforting voice to come away and know him, trust him, abide in him.
During this holiday season, I pray that you will enjoy all the events and gatherings you are a part of. I really do. But more than that, I pray that you will enjoy the small intimate moments with your Savior as you get to know him more and as your trust in him becomes more and more personal.