The Women of Jesus’ Lineage: Mary

Scriptures: Matthew 1:18-25

Throughout this Advent season, I have been doing a series on of the women in Jesus’ genealogy, with a focus on the unexpected, and how God works in unexpected and unusual ways to bring about His plan for salvation. If you would care to see any earlier messages on that, the transcripts will be on the website.

This evening we’re going to have a short message about Mary, the last of the women in Jesus’ genealogy. She’s not actually mentioned in the genealogy because she was, well, the mother of Jesus, and so she has kind of a prime spot there in the light.

The birth and life of Jesus were prophesied over three hundred times in the Old Testament. One of those prophecies came from Isaiah 7, where it talked about a young maiden, in the Hebrew, or it could be a virgin and it was translated by the Greek as a virgin, would give birth to the Savior.

Now a young maid who was a virgin is an unlikely person, you might think, to have a child. Particularly one who was the Christ child, the Savior of the world. Joseph certainly thought so. He was ready to divorce her, when he found out she was pregnant.

I admit that I get this image in my mind of Bill Cosby, when he talked about Noah, and he has a skit called “Right,” and Mary coming up to Joseph and saying, “Joseph, I’m pregnant by the Holy Spirit.” And he says, “Right.” And then he had his own dream where the angel told him it was so.

Now in doing this, this poor carpenter and this young maiden took on a very, very heavy burden. It was one that would last their whole lives, as people would not believe that story. People would think their own opinions of her, and of Jesus, and of Joseph, for staying by her. They would assume it was him that had caused the pregnancy.

And yet, we see that Mary accepts this fully. When presented with it, she says, “I am the Lord’s handmaiden. Her only concern was how it was going to happen, in the angel addressed that. When she went to her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptizer, and he leaped in her womb through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, recognizing Christ’s presence, Mary says a very famous poem.

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.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.

Mary had this spontaneous hymn of praise, when presented with the recognition by someone else of who Christ was. Now I want you to imagine and put yourself in Mary’s shoes for a moment. Put yourself in there without all the romance that we have, without all of the beautiful decorations that we have.

A teenager in Palestine, pregnant, when she’s not supposed to be, giving praise to God for this strange and unusual occurrence. And when the time came, as was said in our dramatic reading, because of the census, they went to Bethlehem.

And it was so bursting at the seams because of the number of people that had to come, there was no guest room for them. So they basically had to stay in a stable, whether you believe that was an add-on to a house or a cave somewhere, it was full of animals. It probably smelled. It had rough straw.

And the baby was not wrapped in linens or silks like any king would be, but in swaddling clothes, strips of a blanket torn apart and then used to wrap him up, to keep him warm and still. And Mary looked upon this child, and knew that he was Emmanuel, God with us.

Imagine, if you will, the love and faith she had for God, to put herself through this. And God rewarded her, as He rewards those of faith, as He has promised. Her life was not an easy one. Her life was not a trouble-free one, or a conflict-free one.

She even got told off, sometimes, by the young Jesus. As a parent, I can say that could be pretty rough. But we see when he was twelve years old, and he was in the temple and he stayed there in Jerusalem, and they left without him – somehow they forgot him or missed him – and then they come running back, and she tries to chastise him and says, “Where have you been?” And he says, “Where did you expect me to be, but in my father’s house doing my father’s business?”

It must be terrible to have a child that’s always right. In my household, when I was growing up, my dad had a sign on the refrigerator that said “Rule A: the general is always right.” And then it said “Rule B: if it looks like the general is wrong, Rule A applies.”

Imagine the love and faith that this young woman had in her Creator, to accept both the burden and the blessing that He had placed upon her. It’s that, that makes this story.

God could have achieved His salvation in any way. He could have achieved the incarnation in any way He wanted. But He chose this way.

And so we always remember Mary. She knew what Jesus’ birth was for, because of the prophecies in the Old Testament. She knew that he hadn’t just come to take over and to rule the world, but that he had come to die, for you and for me, out of love for each and every one of us.

And I know that perhaps, to some people that may seem like an odd message to have on Christmas Eve, where we celebrate the birth of Christ. But he wasn’t just born for no reason, and that very reason is why we can celebrate today.

God loved us – you and me – enough that “He sent His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For he did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” You only have to believe.

So as we sing our Christmas carols, as you go home and have your decorations, maybe open a present before Christmas Day, if that’s your tradition, or drink eggnog, or whatever it might be, make sure to give thanks to the one who loved you and me in a way that we never would have expected, a way that we never could have planned for, and yet a way that brought the perfect salvation we’d so desperately need. And then share that good news with others on Christmas.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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