I’ve always wondered about why Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s message was so holy, so good, while Zechariah’s reaction left him mute.
Tonight we were doing our advent devotional (we are only a few days behind. . .) and I don’t know what version this is. (But I’m too lazy to look it up, sorry.)
Zechariah: “How can I know this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” And then, of course, he said nothing else. He couldn’t. (Luke 1.18)
Mary: “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.” And then Gabriel explains what will happen, and then she says: “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants. May everything you have said come true.” (Luke 1.34 and 38)
Zechariah’s response, paraphrased: “How can I know. . . “ Well, duh, if an angel came with a message from God, you can know God will do it. He’s like that, He keeps his promises.
Mary’s response, paraphrased: “How will it work?” She’s asking to know what will happen, more details. She believes it will happen but wants to know how she’ll know it’s about to come about.
And then, of course, after she gets these details, her reaction is “Sure. Let’s do it.” Paraphrased, of course.
I’ve heard sermons for years about how she gave up her life dreams, hopes, plans for this big unknown of conceiving this Child. At the very least, she would have understood that the attached strings had huge stigma. Never before did I understand the hugeness of what she did. Maybe she was looking forward to marrying her sweetheart, settling down into keeping house and raising a pile of children, first-century Nazareth style. Being found to be pregnant before her wedding hijacked all of that.
And I keep wondering, would she have taken the trip to Bethlehem with Joseph had she not been pregnant? She wouldn’t have needed to. She could have waited in her parents’ house for him to return to Nazareth from his trip. When she was found to be pregnant, Joseph took her into his home early. Who would have taken care of her while he was gone? And by “taken care of,” I mean help her, fix the dishwasher when it breaks, haul the wet laundry to the clothesline, bring over dinner Friday night–not stone her.
Anyway, I personally don’t like to travel when pregnant, and that’s with a comfy van to drive and soft bed and easy-to-prepare food at each stop. I hear that road conditions and accommodations in her travel route would have been much more, ah, rustic.
And even when the Bethlehem trip could have been over, they stayed there. Traveling pregnant would not have been fun. Traveling with a newborn or a one-year-old would not have been fun either. And what would she be going home to- – a town where her reputation was somewhat tarnished? Who would have accepted the Baby, knowing what they thought they knew about His parents? Surely it was better for everyone involved that they stay away for a few years.
I wonder what her parents and siblings thought. Being so far away from her home town, she effectively lost her family in a day before Facebook or email or even the U. S. Postal Service. That’s if they would have accepted her or wanted to associate with her.
Of course, there is no way that she could have known all that would have happened in the future, all the stops that would have been different in her life because of the switch in the tracks. And yet, Mary’s response reminds me of what Ann says: “All is grace!” I am overwhelmed. I don’t know that I could have said the same.
I haven’t said the same.
A flat tire? I throw a fit. A sick child rearranging my schedule? I grumble and groan and get frustrated. An unexpected move? I balk.
An unexpected end to a pregnancy? Ouch. My first reaction is, usually, to try to fight for what I want. (Like that would help?!)
While we were doing this devotional, my oldest asked me to spell out a particular verse. (verse 37, “For nothing is impossible with God.”) I told him to look on the previous page of the devotional and he refused. A moment before when we asked what he would do if God told him to do something other than what he wanted to do he said, of course, he would do what God wanted. But he won’t even do what I tell him to do.
And I am the same way. How can I help him to accept it all as grace, if I cannot?
I hope that I can remember this at the next fork in the road. We all need it.