Today we begin a new series of messages called Christmas: It’s Complicated. Christmas can be complicated in two ways.
- First, the Christmas story is complicated. There are some difficult and odd things happening in the Christmas story. Think of the Christmas story from the perspective of someone who has never heard the story. They are going to hear about a young lady who is engaged but becomes pregnant by the Holy Spirit. That’s complicated. Her fiancé doesn’t believe her and decides to break off their marriage. Then an angel appears and convinces Him to marry her. Complicated. Nine months later she’s pregnant riding a donkey into town because of a census that was being taken and they had no place to stay and ended up in a stable where she gives birth. Complicated. Two years later some wise men show up to give the baby gifts because they have seen this star in the sky that meant something to them regarding the coming Messiah. Herod hears about this and decides to kill all the babies that are 2 years and younger in an attempt to kill this Messiah. Complicated. The story itself is complicated.
- Second, Christmas is complicated today. The pressure to spend money you don’t have in order to buy presents. The complications in deciding which family to see on Christmas day. Then you throw in divorce so mom is over there and dad lives over there. Then you add death, a loved one died this past year and this is the first Christmas without them. Complicated. Then you struggle with the cold weather, shorter day light, anxieties, and depression and weight gain. Man, it gets complicated.
If we are not careful, Christmas can become a burden rather than a joyful reminder of our Savior’s birth and what that means to us. Today, I want us to learn from Mary about how to respond to God when God tells you to do something or that He is going to do something in your life that is going to be complicated. How do you respond to God’s instructions when you don’t understand everything?
Respond with humility
Number one, respond with humility. Look at verse 28, “Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean” (NLT). The angel Gabriel said two significant things to Mary.
- Gabriel said, “Greetings, favored woman!” That means God had sovereignly created Mary and chosen Mary to be the recipient of this news and be the woman to carry God’s Son in her womb. She wasn’t favored because she was better than all the women on the planet at the time, she was favored because God chose her.
When it comes to Mary, there are some things you need to know.
- Mary was a sinner. She was not perfect. The Bible makes it very clear that all people, except Jesus Christ have sinned… including Mary (Rom. 3:23).
- Mary cannot answer prayers. She does not hear and answer prayers or intercede for anyone, since the Bible clearly teaches that there is only “one mediator… between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5, NASB).
- Mary cannot save anyone. Yours and my salvation is “a gift by [God’s] grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” alone (Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 1:7). Our salvation is not through Jesus Christ and Mary.
What we have here is a normal teenage girl who is a follower of God who struggles with sin and needed a Savior like every one of us. She became favored when God chose her, not because of how holy she was.
- Gabriel also said, “The Lord is with you!” This refers to God’s presence and power to enable her to do what He is about to say. God is with you to accomplish the task you are about to receive.
Notice her response to this short greeting in verse 29, “Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean” (NLT). At this point in the conversation, Mary knows nothing about getting divinely pregnant, giving birth to the Messiah, or anything else attached to this miracle. All she knows is an angel has appeared to her and God has shown favor on her and the Lord is with her.
One of the reasons why this is so “confusing and disturbing” to her is because she knows she is a sinner, and did not understand why God has favored her. And this is a reflection of her humility. One of the greatest lessons we can learn here is that God can use normal people, normal sinners like you and me to accomplish His plan and His will in our lives and in the world. You don’t have to be perfect to be used by God.
Respond with faith
Number two, respond with faith. God’s message is to be mixed with faith. Faith is simply trusting what God says. Look at what the angel said to Mary beginning in verse 30, “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin” (NLT). That is a complicated message. I can understand why Mary would be confused and disturbed before and after hearing this news.
But notice carefully her question, “How can this happen? I am a virgin.” This is not a question of doubt, but of implementation. She had faith and trust in God to do what He said He would do, but her question dealt with the practical side of how this was going to occur. Even though she believed God could do it, it seemed impossible.
Sometimes, like in this case, God will answer the question of how He plans on bringing His plan about. So in verse 35, the angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (NLT).
Regardless of how complicated, confusing, or disturbing God’s Word is to you, we are to receive it by faith. God knows what He is doing. He is perfectly wise and can be trusted. Whether you understand or agree with how God is going to implement His plan in your life is not the issue, the issue is for you to simply trust Him with the matter and the situation and do what He says to do and rely on Him.
Respond with a servant’s heart
Number three, respond with a servant’s heart. Look at verse 38, “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant’” (NLT). This word “servant” (doule) is significant. It gives us insight into Mary’s heart and it gives us insight into the kind of servant’s heart we should have toward the Lord. To understand the depth of this word “servant” there are two things you need to know.
- First, as a servant, you willingly serve God. This word “servant” (doule) is referring to a specific kind of a servant called a bond-servant. A bond-servant is someone who loves their master and considers it a blessing and honor to serve him and officially becomes their servant for life. This is renouncing all other masters and giving your allegiance to just one. Jesus put it this way in Matthew 16, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matt. 16:24-25, NLT). As God’s bond-servant you willingly serve God.
- Secondly, as a servant you are under God’s authority. By saying, “I am the Lord’s servant” Mary acknowledged she was under the Lord’s authority. She was saying she was under His leadership, His guidance. He is the master, she is the servant. This is also true for you and me. As a follower of Jesus, you are a servant of the Lord. He is the master, you are the servant. He is the potter and you are the clay. You are under His authority. As a servant you want to do what He wants.
- Third, as a servant, you see yourself belonging to the Lord. You see yourself as the property of the Lord. This is how Mary saw herself. She saw herself as belonging to God. This is not seeing yourself belonging to an evil and cruel master. This is seeing yourself belonging to a loving, gracious, and generous master who wants you to experience victory in your life. Because of this you want to live for Him and die for Him. This is what Romans 14:7 says, “For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (NLT). There are some things in the Bible that will not make any sense unless you approach the Scripture with a bond-servant mind-set. You see yourself as belonging to the Lord.
- Forth, as a servant, you willingly give up your rights. A bond-servant says, “I love my master so much and I am so blessed to serve Him that whatever He wants me to do, I will do.” Mary had that attitude toward God and so should we. You are so convinced that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose that you give yourself to God in complete abandonment. You surrender all your rights to serve Him. So, as a bondservant, if God’s Word says it you are going to believe it and do it. You give up all your rights. This is what Paul is saying in Galatians 2:20, “My old self has been crucified with Christ [I give up my rights]. It is no longer I who live [I am giving up my rights], but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (NLT).
When you hear God speak to you whether it’s through His Word, godly counsel, or the still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in your heart receive it as one of His servants.
Respond with acceptance
Number four, respond with acceptance. Look at verse 38 again, “May everything you have said about me come true” (NLT). That is not a statement of doubt, but a statement of faith which accepts the outcome. When Mary heard what was going to happen she knew she would face several difficult things.
- She would have to face Joseph, her fiancé, and explain why she is pregnant and not being sure of how he would respond. When she did tell him, he decided to end the engagement, until the Lord spoke to him and convinced him that what Mary was saying was true.
- She would have to face the appearance of adultery. In Mary’s time if you were engaged, you were considered legally married, but you haven’t consummated the marriage yet. To become un-engaged, you had to go through a divorce process and that’s what Joseph had decided to do, but the Lord changed his mind. And in Mary’s time, adultery could be punished by death.
- She would have to the face her marred reputation. People would talk. People would assume and gossip.
Her love and commitment to God was so strong that she could say with humility and honesty to God, “May everything you have said about me come true” even if that meant losing her husband, her reputation and maybe even her life.
God has a plan and a purpose for your life. From your perspective, there will be many uncertainties and concerns you may have about what God is doing or going to do, like Mary. But whatever God has planned for you may you be able to say like Mary, “May everything you have said about me come true.”
If you are going through a difficult or complicated time in your life and feel like you need someone to talk to or pray with we have people available this morning for you.
Before we finish, I want you to understand that Mary had a healthy relationship with God. She trusted Him. She obeyed Him. Your first step in facing your complication is to have a relationship with God. That relationship starts with placing your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life.
If you would like to talk later, please fill out one of the Welcome Cards and place it in the offering box on your way out.