2014-12-18 - Christmas Impressions
Originally Published 2010-12-02
Luke1:38 And Mary said, "Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. (NASB)
I started reading the Christmas story again tonight. Luke starts out with Zacharias and Elizabeth. The statement about them that impressed me was in verse six - "And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord." (Luke 1:6 NASB)
Praise of Zacharias and Elizabeth - Statement One
To walk in what was a very political environment complicated by the godless Roman occupation and remain righteous and blameless is quite a statement to make about someone. They were not perfect. Zacharias had to be chastised by the angel Gabriel and was struck mute until the promised son was born. But Zacharias is not recorded as chafing against his punishment. He rather seems to accept that he was wrong to doubt Gabriel's promise and continues until the day he is permitted to speak again.
Praise of Mary - Statement Two
Then Luke moves on to Mary. She was the cousin of Elizabeth who would be the mother of John the Baptist and was the wife of Zacharias. Mary was a teenage girl betrothed to Joseph of Nazareth who was a descendant of King David. Gabriel was sent with news to Mary that she would not only bear a son but that she would give birth to the long promised Messiah. Gabriel greets her saying, "Hail, favored one". For the angelic messenger of the Lord of Hosts to speak so highly of a member of a fallen rebellious race, is another amazing statement to make about that person.
Mary's Response - Statement Three
Mary is a virgin and questions Gabriel not understanding how this will happen. Once it is explained the most stunning statement is uttered of the three:
"Behold the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word."
In the NASB translation the word "bondslave" occurs six times all in the New Testament only once referring to actual slaves. The other references refer to believers in their relationship to God. American culture prohibits slavery so the depth of what Mary is saying is more difficult for us to grasp fully. Christians refer to themselves, and not unrightly so, as children of God, ambassadors, and other positive references. Mary gathers herself in the middle of this staggering meeting with Gabriel and very very humbly accepts the place that she has been given, "may it be done to me according to your word." It is both an honor and a task filled with self-denial and every possibility for severe trouble with her family and friends to the Jewish legal system.
While Christians today accept that they have responsibilities to the kingdom of God, how many think of themselves as bondslaves? I have asked this before. Do we simply turn away and do what is easier not unlike the Priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan when things get difficult? Mary was going to face explaining this pregnancy to Joseph and her parents - both who she surely loved. She would be a candidate for stoning since she had clearly been unfaithful. She would be considered an adulteress. But she trusted her Lord Who had sent the angel to prepare the path ahead of her.
These three examples that are given to us should give us cause to review how we see ourselves and our lives as Christians. We have been forgiven every rebellious thought or act we have every done or will do and have been given grace and mercy where we deserve justice. As Christmas approaches we should catch scenes that give us insights into things that should be part of our thinking and daily life.
Messiah has been announced.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.