Every young girl wants to be Mary in the nativity. It’s the coveted role, which is interesting considering how challenging it must have been to be the real Mary. I have so much respect and gratitude for her. And though none of us are called to her specific life mission, we can all learn from how nobly she fulfilled her critical role.
- Virtue and righteousness compensate for youth and inexperience.
God could have chosen any virgin at any stage of life to be the mother of the messiah. He could have chosen a princess or an older (presumably wiser) woman. (Christ’s cousin John the Baptist’s mother was stricken in years) But he didn’t. He chose a teenage girl of no fame or fortune. From this we learn that we don’t need rank, wealth or experience to build up the kingdom of God. Rather, we need humility, virtue and faith.
2. Mary trusted God. The angel tells Mary she’s going to have a baby. She calmly points out an obvious problem. (“How shall this be seeing I know not a man?”) The angel explains; and she responds humbly, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” Wow! She really trusted God. This response is especially astounding considering what a difficult situation the angel’s news put her in. She was unwed and going to have a baby. Does she complain, worry, or argue to try to change the angel and ultimately God’s mind? Doe she say like, Moses and Enoch did, you’ve got the wrong person? No, she simply trusts. When we get a calling or an answer to prayer that we didn’t expect, I hope we can be like Mary. “Be it unto me according to thy word.”
3. Choosing the right didn’t protect Mary from difficulties, in fact it often made life harder. First there’s the aforementioned problem of an unwed pregnancy at a time when people were not understanding about such things. After the angel sorted that mess out with her betrothed (but probably not with the town gossips), Mary had to endure the normal hardships of pregnancy. And then when it came time for her to have this miraculous baby, did she deliver in the comfort of her own home? No. She was in a strange city, not even in a proper house but in a shelter for animals. (Much to the delight of small children for centuries to come.) To fulfill her life’s mission Mary was repeatedly put in challenging and uncomfortable situations. Shortly after her first child was born she and her new husband had to leave their home and families to flee to Egypt. Like Mary, when we do what is right, often the immediate consequence is not always positive. And almost always, following God’s will for us pushes us out of our comfort zone.
4. Mary remembered spiritual experiences. From the visit of the angel Gabriel to the prophecy of her cousin Elisabeth, to the stories the shepherds told her of heavenly hosts, she sure had a lot of them. But she did not take spiritual things lightly. She “kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:17) Remembering these experiences must have given her strength, purpose and hope as she faced the challenges of raising her son. In my own life, I’ve found the more I remember and reflect on spiritual experiences, the more strength and faith I have to face new challenges.
5. Being a Mother will break your heart. As she brought her small child, barely over a week old to the temple, Simeon told Mary “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.” This prophecy was fulfilled when she stood beneath the cross and watched them crucify her innocent, magnificent son. To be a mother means that at some time a sword will pierce through your soul. In the best case this pain is the natural result of children growing up and moving away to start their own lives. But in most cases it’s more complicated. The piercing may come while watching a child suffer illness, cruelty or rejection. Too often a mother’s heart is wounded when a child makes poor choices, hurting themselves and others. And some mothers hearts break when, like Mary, they watch their child die. Heartache is a part of motherhood but the most important lesson we learn from Mary is that by being a mother, we can save the world.