What | Advent Devotional Series: Luke 1:56 – 2:52, December 31, 2020

Mary Taylor   -  

Read and pray through the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1:56 – 2:52.
To read more about Mary, see also Matthew 1:18 – 2:15; and John 2:1-11; 19:25-27.

Introduction | The Christmas story begins with Jesus’ family tree. And over these next few weeks of Advent, we are looking more closely at the four women highlighted in Jesus’ lineage as recorded by Matthew in his gospel: “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham…” (Matthew 1:1). If you’re new to this devotional, we encourage you to read the Introduction to this series that explains both the structure and purpose of Matthew’s genealogy. The overall focus of this devotional is addressed as well. You can find the Introduction to this devotional series by clicking here.

Reflection |
Growing up, I had a specific and less fleshed out view of who Mary was in the story of Jesus. She was often depicted as a pious, meek, quiet, and perfect image of a young woman dressed in pristine blue and white. You could find this image of Mary in Christmas story plays, nativities, and in artwork depicting her. Now, as an adult, I see quite a different view of Mary and her role as not just the Mother of Jesus, but also, as an evangelist of the Gospel, of the promise that Jesus gives us. Mary offers us a clear view of what it is like to live by the grace of God and trusting in the promises of God.

Being named Mary, I had a lot of jokes made about my name growing up…even as an adult that continued and one of my favorite Christmas songs was almost ruined by the jokes. “Mary did you know?” was one of my favorites, well it still is, I said it was “almost ruined by jokes” not completely ruined. Anyways, as I look at the lyrics, I think about all the things we know in retrospect, but may have not been known by Mary at the time:

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would calm the storm with his hand?

Did you know that your baby boy
Has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby
You kiss the face of God
Mary, did you know?

(click here for full lyrics)
She would have grown up knowing the scriptures and the prophecies about the Messiah, but did Mary know everything that was before her and Jesus when she said “yes” to God? Did Mary know her son would be the Messiah, the Son of God? Well yes, the Angel Gabriel revealed that knowledge to her. Did Mary know her son would perform miracles and bring healing? No, most likely not. Did Mary know that her son would be able to have wind and sea obey him? Probably not. Did Mary know that her son would die a gruesome death on the Cross? I do not believe she did. Did Mary know the full extent of the salvation he offered to all? I’m not sure.

Even so, what Mary did know was that she could trust in the Lord and his plan. Regardless of the uncertainty of her future and her son’s future, Mary demonstrates to us faith born of the certainty of God. Mary’s faith and trust in the Lord, is what reframes my view of her now. She is just like any other person, faced with the uncertainty of tomorrow, yet she leans into the certainty of who God is and his faithfulness. No longer do I see her as the perfect image of a woman clothed in blue and white. Instead, I see her as an imperfect person in need of a Savior, who chooses to be clothed in the Lord’s grace and faithfulness. I see a woman who not only held Jesus as an infant born in dangerous and messy circumstances but also held him as an adult after his gruesome death on the Cross for our salvation and hers. In all the uncertainties she never lost sight of the power and promise of the God she chose to serve with her “yes”. It says in Luke that after Jesus’ birth and the Shepherds came at the prompting of the Angels, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) and I can’t help but think of Mary after all she went through from conception to the birth of Jesus in such unusual and unsure circumstance, she “treasured and pondered” what the Lord was doing. I think to myself, “When things don’t go the way I expect, or they don’t make sense, do I treasure or even think about the promise and hope that my Savior brings to my life?”

Most of us are living in uncertain times right now. They may not be the circumstances that Mary faced, but they are difficult and their endings unknown. The year 2020 has been turbulent, filled with sorrow, pain, fear, anger, hatred, division, and grief. Some people are making New Year’s Resolutions today, others are too afraid to hope for more in the year 2021 as we still live in the uncertainty and shadow of a year wrought with a pandemic, political qualms, racial injustice, lives lost, and so much devastation. What comforts me, is remembering that Mary did not know everything to come of her situation, nor Jesus’. Furthermore, she did not need to know the outcome to trust in God in her circumstances. She reminds us that the Lord is always with us and continues to be at work in us and through us by his Holy Spirit – irrespective of our current trials and sufferings. She points us to the true promise of the birth of Jesus, which is hope. Biblical hope does not rest on the ever-changing circumstances of this world or our earthly lives, but rests in the hopeful expectation of what is guaranteed by our God; eternal life with him, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4). Hope that never fails. Amen.

Consider & Discuss | How can Mary’s story bring hope to your next year? Where did you see God present and moving in your life, even in the bleakest of circumstances? How does focusing on what is sure (our God, his relationship with us, and his promise of a future that lasts) help you reorient your approach to what is uncertain (our current circumstances and past hurts)?

Prayer Focus | Pray through the Magnificat, Mary’s song, and line by line, ask the Lord to comfort you through his character and his promises.
Mary’s Song
46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55

Come, Lord Jesus, come!
Mary Taylor