Well, Christmas is over for this year, but one of the things that most of us don’t think too much about during the celebration of Christmas is the idea of truly following Christ. We are all about the birth of the Christ child, and we know the story of the manger and the shepherds and the wise men by heart. After all, we have heard the stories since we were very young.
But the birth of Jesus, God in the flesh, was just the first step. After all, God’s greatest wish is for us to surrender to Him. Total surrender; and that’s a scary thought. After all, I can assure you that I want to follow Him. But there is a part of me that wants to follow Him as long as His will for my life is consistent with my will for my life. And that’s backwards. What does total surrender look like? Well, for starters, we can look at Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Historians tell us that Mary could have been as young as twelve to fourteen when she was betrothed to Joseph. In those days, marriage was a two step process. After the engagement, the couple moved in together and spent a year getting to know one another. The relationship was a celibate one, until the actual marriage occurred, a year after the couple started to live together. It was during this engagement period, when the couple was actually considered “married” that Mary was visited by Gabriel.
Here’s where the story gets really interesting. Gabriel announced that Mary was favored by God and that the Lord was with her. These are very powerful words – not that the Lord was near, or that she was good at worshipping Him, but that He was actually with her. Mary was troubled, in that she was betrothed to Joseph. But Gabriel assured her that she would be the mother of the Son of the Most High God. And that Mary should not be afraid.
Now Mary’s world was about to be turned upside down. For after the birth of Jesus, she would forever run the risk of being considered an adulteress, for it would have been common practice to believe that she had betrayed Joseph. In fact, we are told that he thought about divorcing her, which was the only way the living arrangements could be terminated. But God intervened once again and Joseph was told to accept Mary; and to not go through with the separation.
Joseph and Mary both obeyed what they were told. I am sure that Mary could have protested God’s plan for her life, and perhaps God would have chosen another person to bring Jesus into the world, but that’s not how Mary responded. Instead, she surrendered her life to God. From that moment on, whatever happened to her didn’t matter. Her life had been forever changed by her complete surrender to God. To bring Jesus into the world, to deal with the public outcry about Him, the animosity of His brothers, the death of Joseph, and finally, the death of her child by crucifixion, the cruelest form of torture and death known at that time. Would Mary have consented to God’s plan if she had known the pain that would be brought into her life? Was it worth it for her?
Of course, we’ll never know, not on this earth at least. For from the moment that Gabriel announced God’s wish, Mary’s will for her life was in complete alignment with the will of God. I wish that I had that kind of complete surrender. Because I am prone to want to surrender to God until the going gets tough, and then I would rather do it my way. Not that I can control anything, because I can’t. But for some reason, I like “thinking” that I am in control, even when it is evident to me that I can’t extend my own life by a day, or a moment, if it is outside the will of our Father in heaven.
What makes this even more frustrating to me is that I know several people who I believe feel the same way Mary felt. They have submitted to the Father and are prepared to do whatever it takes to honor God in the process. To witness this kind of selfless behavior is something to behold – I want some of that. I really do want to please God and submit to Him, but I wonder if the chips were really down, and my life depended on it, would I truly totally surrender, without reservation, to the will of the Father? I hope so, because I have tried to walk with God for many years now, but submission is a tough lesson for me.
The verse for tonight is from Luke 1:38, the verse that gives us the words that Mary spoke to Gabriel when she found out God’s plan for her life, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.” A truly remarkable verse, but one that most of us have never studied in depth, even though it is a very important part of the story of the birth of our Savior.
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God desires you to surrender to His will and His plan for your life. And that’s a tall order – even scary at times. My prayer is that you will yield the ideas you have for your life and choose the path of total surrender. Because God assures us that it will turn out fine and I can’t help but wonder what our lives would truly look like if we dedicated ourselves to the service and desire of the Lord. Grace and Peace,