Why Mary?

Title: Why Mary?

Text: Luke 1:26-38

Time: November 29th, 2009

As we approach the Christmas 2009, I’d like to take a few weeks and reflect on three questions that come from the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus Christ. First, why Mary? Or in other words, why among all the women at the time was the virgin Mary chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus? Second, why the Magi? In other words, why were these foreigners chosen by God to visit the baby Jesus? Third, why the shepherds? Why was this group selected by God for the angelic announcement? As we begin to think about these three questions we’ll begin to wonder just why God did it the way he did. There were other options, other alternative possibilities that he could have used rather than these three groups or individuals. In fact, there are other choices that would make better sense — that is, from an earthly, human standpoint. For example, just to touch on one point that I’ll talk about more later, the shepherds in fact seem very unlikely, if you were to try to come up with a group to announce the birth of an important person. Why not some important social group — Jewish leaders, the ruling council, the leading social leaders or business leaders. In other words, VIPs. But to make the first announcement of the birth of Israel’s Messiah to a group of shepherds, men who were sleeping outside with animals in the field, men who weren’t typically wealthy or influential or movers and shakers in society, why make them the first to know of the Messiah’s birth? In modern times, when movies show aliens from outer space visiting the planet earth, the first thing the aliens do when they meet earthlings is say, “Take me to your leader,” meaning, “Let me talk to someone who is responsible and who is influential and who is important.” But when God Almighty — who is by the way alien in many respects, who lives in a foreign location in heaven, who comes from outside the earth and visits the earth — when God visits the earth in the form of the baby Jesus, instead of making sure the news reaches the ears of the “leaders” he instead tells it to the shepherds. Why is that? We’ll explore that question further. There does seem to be a pattern developing in the way God is operating on the first Christmas. He seems to utterly disregard man’s hierarchical standards and chain of authority. He seems to totally forge his own protocol in dealing with people. He doesn’t follow earthly, human chains of command. Why should he, he isn’t under any man’s authority? Why should he work within the boundaries of man’s order? And he doesn’t; he makes his own agenda and follows it, and let’s humans deal with it. But this activity of God isn’t just limited to the events around the first Christmas. Throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, God consistently chooses outside of man’s typical protocol. And that’s good for us, good for most of us, because there are so very few people on earth today who are wealthy, famous, powerful, privileged — and all the important things the world teaches are necessary in order to be influential and a leader among men. It’s good for us that we don’t have to be those things in order to get the attention and affection of God. God is making a statement in picking regular, ordinary people. He’s showing his unconditional love to all, not just those who are called “important” on earth. We need to remember that each Christmas, God reminds us that we are all important to him just the way we are, and that we don’t have to be or do anything to earn his love. But let’s look at how God shows this in choosing Mary in Luke 1:26-38 (read).

First, there were others who seemed more qualified. In a typical situation, when a company or management executive is searching for a qualified person to fill a job opening or fill a position open within a company, he or she will search for the most qualified person, and that usually starts with inviting people to apply for the job and turn in their resumes. The executive or committee making the job selection then receives all the resumes and looks them over carefully. The person for the job usually has to look good on paper first even before they are given a job interview. I remember I was once looking for a part-time job in the Chicago area while I was pastoring a small church. I went over to the company and brought my resume with me, gave it to the person at the desk, and then said, “Could you tell me a little more about the job or show me what it is the company does in more detail?” But the person told me very bluntly, “We’ll look over your resume and call you if we’re interested, then we can answer those kinds of questions.” In other words, no we won’t talk to you or spend any time explaining what the company does until we’ve looked over your resume because without knowing who you are or what you can do we don’t want to waste the time in dealing with you until we know you are somebody who we might be interested in. Right then and there I decided I didn’t want to work for that company because of their cold attitude towards people and especially people who work or might work for them. If Mary had to hand in her resume or go in for a job interview, and if she had to get her job of being the mother of Jesus the Messiah based on her resume information or job application, she’d probably never have gotten the call. Why not? Because she didn’t match earthly, human expectations. If a human resources department was looking for a qualified candidate for “mother of the Messiah” they might have been looking for different things than what Mary had. For example, since the Messiah was an important leadership position in the community and nation, they might have looked for a young woman from an influential and prominent family in Israel. They would have looked among the VIP families or among groups of people who were from the elite of society — the powerful and influential, the wealthy, the famous, the privileged, those who stand out in society as special. But God by-passed the human expectations and chose a young girl who didn’t fit hardly any of the earthly, human qualifications. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t follow human protocol? Hundreds of years ago, people flocked to the North American continent to escape the stuffy and stifling class structure of Europe in order to start a new life without all the cultural baggage of the Old World order. Over in Old Europe, to be somebody you had to have a family name, you had to own land, you had to be a part of the right social class, you had to be connected with either wealth or power or position, and other human structures. But in the New World, in the United States, you could start fresh without all the man-made restrictions. Well, God doesn’t follow all the human protocol, ancient or modern. He will relate to you one-to-one, directly. He doesn’t judge you by earthly, human standards. In fact, he ignores all the human hierarchies in dealing with us. So today, if this Christmas season you haven’t arrived or achieved what people say is success or achievement or wealth or power or social position, don’t worry, that’s not what is important to God. What is important is your faith and your obedience to him. If you simply trust and obey God today you are the one God deals with, just like he dealt with Mary that first Christmas.

Second, Mary was qualified in God’s eyes. Now even though Mary didn’t seem to be the girl for the job of mother of the Messiah from a human standpoint, she evidently qualified in God’s eyes. Why? Well, first of all, she was Jewish, and the Messiah’s mother had to be Jewish, so that lined up in her favor. But of course, there were many Jewish girls at the time who would qualify on this point. What else might have qualified Mary in the eyes of God? Another point in her favor was her humble attitude. We know she was not filled with her own self-importance; her social position kept her also from thinking more highly of herself. We read in her song in Luke 1:46-48, “And Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.'” She knew she was not seen as very important in society. In the words of the world, she might have been considered a “nobody” or “nobody special.” She was someone who was pretty typical in all earthly appearances. Now most of us can relate to that. Most of us are people who are pretty typical. Someone once said God must have liked average people because he made so many of them. But average just means someone who doesn’t stand out as particularly good or bad, or famous or infamous. Mostly, it’s just a person who minds their own business and does the best they can without causing fuss or fanfare. Now the world tells us that in order to be somebody we have to make a name for ourselves, we have to do something important or special or stand out in some way so that people notice us — then, the world says, we are somebody. We need to get our names in the paper or get some important or famous person to recognize us — then, we are something or somebody. But God doesn’t think like that. God by-passed all the young Jewish women who were known or well-known or famous or powerful or from the higher social classes. He chose a young Jewish woman who wasn’t famous, wasn’t powerful, didn’t have status or social class position, who hadn’t made a name for herself or hadn’t stood out from the crowd in any way. It teaches us that God operates outside of our human structures and systems. There might be perfectly good reasons why society organizes itself the way it does, but God simply doesn’t follow man’s organizational structure. And it’s good for us that he doesn’t. “Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart,” that’s what the Bible teaches us. We see that in the Old Testament when God was choosing a king for Israel. Saul was the obvious pick, but as it turned out David was God’s choice. We can be sure, if people had chosen the Messiah’s mother it wouldn’t have been Mary. Maybe people don’t put much stock in you today, right now, at this point in your life. Don’t worry, God has plans for you apart from what people think. Keep your faith in God and live your life in obedience to his will and he’ll lead and guide you where you need to be. Don’t worry about what people think. God looks at the heart more than the outer appearance.

Third, if you trust and obey God he’ll use you to fulfill his plans. In today’s world it’s easy to feel that God can only use the rich, famous, powerful or positioned people because they are the ones we usually see on television. It’s amazing how many people think that if they could just get on television or on radio or in the papers, then they’d be somebody special. We heard about parents last month using their children to pull off a balloon stunt in order to become famous and get on television. We just recently heard of a couple in Washington D.C. that crashed the president’s state dinner in order to hob knob with the rich and famous and powerful. Why? They wanted to be somebody special or be seen as special. Yes, people today think that in order to be somebody they have to either be rich or famous or in a powerful position or stand out in the crowd. In the modern world with television cameras and the Internet, people try to get their name and face before millions of people thinking that if they can they’ll be somebody special. But Jesus teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that we don’t have to strive for the things the world says are essential for success. Listen at how counter-cultural Jesus is in teaching what is really important in life, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:3-10. Now this isn’t the typical way people think to become successful, but God turns the worldly wisdom around and teaches almost its opposite. That’s what God did in choosing Mary to be the mother of Jesus. He shows us that he wants us to pursue him from the heart and put him first in our lives. We are not to worry about impressing and pleasing the sinful world system. A lot of people spend their entire life trying to “make it” or in other words, trying to impress people, achieve recognition in the eyes of mankind. They think that if the world can applaud them, they’ll be fulfilled. But they are putting mankind in the place of God. Mary put God first in her life even if that meant being obscure, being poor, being overlooked by the world. She certainly wasn’t trying to be rich, famous, powerful, privileged, or anything else in the world. She was simply living her life before God and God rewarded her in his way in his time. Isn’t that a good lesson for us this Christmas season. Stop comparing yourself with others, stop trying to impress others. Be what God is calling you to be. Trust in the Lord, obey his will and then leave all the rest to God. It isn’t necessarily the rich, the famous, the powerful or the positioned who God uses to do his will. Rather, it’s the humble, obedient and faithful. Let’s remember that as we live our lives this Christmas season.

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